A wireless JBL speaker resides next to Lawrence Olum’s nook inside Minnesota United’s dressing room at Allianz Field.
Before games, the Loons’ backup defensive midfielder plays a starring role. He’s “DJ Lo” and he runs the music. He doesn’t take requests, instead feeling different players’ pulse and trying to match it with a beat.
DJ Lo might play some Reggaeton for striker Angelo Rodriguez, mix in some classic rock for Ethan Finlay and Brent Kallman or flip it to some Caribbean tunes for Kevin Molino.
Olum might play some Kenyan music to touch his own roots or play a new release from Burna Boy.
“I’ll just read the vibe at the moment,” he said.
DJ Lo has been a hit and his time at the controls has an important correlation. He took over the music selection from equipment manager Ryan Natusch about two months; that was around the time Minnesota began its franchise-altering 11-game unbeaten streak in MLS and U.S. Open Cup games.
The Loons (11-7-5) look to keep that unprecedented run alive against FC Dallas (9-9-6) at 7 p.m. Saturday at Toyota Stadium.
The go-to song before the Loons leave the locker room in St. Paul has been A-ha’s “ Take on Me.”
“You put it on, and it’s like, ‘Really?’ ” Finlay said. “Then someone is vibing on it.”
The keyboard picks up and the last verse sets it off:
“I’ll be coming for your love, okay?”
Then the chorus hits on the Norwegian pop song — which Morten Harket and few others in the world could seriously attempt to sing:
“Taaakeee ooonn meeee. Take. On. Me.Taaakeee meeee ooonn. Take. On. Me.
I’lllllll beeeee gooone.In a daaay or TWOOOOOO!”
With the Loons’ record at 9-0-2 since early June, postgame parties have often carried into the locker room.
Once United punched its ticket to the U.S. Open Cup final with a 2-1 semifinal win over Portland on Wednesday, Mason Toye and Chase Gasper were imitating Kevin Durant’s pregame dance to a tune DJ Lo dialed up.
“Everybody is just super stoked to get this win,” said Toye, who scored the winning goal. “With every win at home, it’s gotten more and more crazy in this locker room, More dancing and stuff.”
Coach Adrian Heath likes having A-ha played around his pregame team talk and also approves of classic songs from the likes of Queen, but reveals a curmudgeon side on some of the newer tunes. And then there’s suspect picks, regardless of generation, from the likes of Will Smith.
There is clearly more correlation than causation at work with DJ Lo’s playlist and the Loons’ recent success.
But after the Loons lost their third straight game to the then-last place Colorado Rapids 1-0 on June 29, the club was in need of a reset. That’s when Minnesota entered the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup, the midseason national tournament for all levels of soccer.
“A lot of times, Open Cup is just one of those things where it’s ‘Ugh, Open Cup,’ ” Finlay acknowledged of the focus staying on MLS play. “It’s how we approached it right out of the gates and put out a really strong lineup against Kansas City.”
The Loons came out flying with a second-minute goal from Rodriguez and cruised to a 4-1 win over Sporting, a routine MLS Western Conference nemesis.
“We got guys off the scoring schneid, myself included,” Finlay said. “Darwin (Quintero) had a great game that day. It just went from there.”
The Loons advanced to Houston, and found themselves trailing 2-0 after 37 minutes.
“It’s hot as hell,” Finlay remembered that game. “There are just those moments where our team should be down and could have easily gone the other way.”
But Minnesota woke up against the Dynamo, with Quintero putting together his second straight two-goal game. Then Toye produced his first pro goal and first winner in the 89th minute.
The Loons kept rolling with a 6-1 win over New Mexico United in the quarterfinals, then added a victory over the Timbers on Wednesday. Minnesota, meanwhile, has gone 5-0-2 in MLS play during that time to reach second place in the West.
“It all kind of correlated with Lo coming in” to provide the music, Finlay said.