by Jason Olson
NSC Minnesota Stars announced a name change to Minnesota Stars FC along with a new logo during the soccer team’s annual winter get together with supporters at Brit’s Pub in Minneapolis Jan. 9.
A modified logo designed by supporter Kevin Joseph was also unveiled with player, assistant coach and director of business development Kevin Friedland leading the evening’s events.
The new logo raises the exposure of Minnesota and the Stars with an even larger star with the state of Minnesota motto “L’Etoile du Nord.”
Friedland said the new changes were needed to simplify the team.
“We wanted to get rid of that confusion,” he said, recalling a story from last season. “We would go through airports and people would see the logo but not really recognize it’s a Minnesota’s team and we had players who didn’t even know what NSC stood for.”
Stars Chief Executive Officer Djorn Bucholz gave an update on his plans for the off-season and expectations heading into the 2012 season, which begins with a home opener against regular season champion Carolina RailHawks at Metrodome April 7.
“Coming off what we did in that last match, the last thing we wanted to do, as an organization, was to put our team on the road for the first six weeks,” Buccholz said. “The only way we could do it was in the Metrodome.”
Tickets start at $5 for general admission and $10 for reserved seating.
Continuing to build on what Buccholz started last season by selling five times as many season tickets in 2011 compared with 2010 was a strong starting point for the team, which finished with a league championship.
“We need an atmosphere like we had in that championship game,” he said describing the raucous atmosphere during the fall playoff run inside the National Sports Center Stadium.
Fans not only brought homemade signs and noisemakers, but blue and gold smoke bombs signaled home team goals. After each game the Stars sprinted across the field to celebrate with the supporters section. “It was one of the most unbelievable things I’ve ever seen,” Buccholz said.
Stars coach Manny Lagos gave an off-season, state of the Stars update about how the team is preparing to defend the 2011 NASL Soccer Bowl this coming season.
The team completed an open combine at the National Sports Center last week in hopes of finding prospective players for the 2012 squad. Out of 26 players at the combine, four or five earned a return visit for a tryout.
Lagos announced the team has plans to host its first traveling player combine in Arizona at the end of February. The goal is to give the team a chance to see players who couldn’t travel to Minnesota.
The complex is the same one used by MLS during its preseason training sessions.
“Ultimately we have to create ways to get better,” Lagos said, with an emphasis on finding more scoring and possibly a new goalie to challenge Matt Van Okel as longtime veteran Joe Warren’s future remains uncertain.
“Since high school, I’ve never won two championships in a row,” Lagos said, a winner of three MLS championships during his playing career. “And over the years, it’s never easy and there’s a reason it doesn’t happen in pro sports.
“I know it sounds cliched, but it’s always harder for various reasons. The easy one is that everyone is gunning for you and as a coach, the harder one is you’ve become complacent. You feel good about yourself.”
The Stars exercised options on a major core of its team to return in 2012 including one goalkeeper, six defenders, eight midfielders and three forwards. Among those whose options were picked up were Justin Davis, Kyle Altman, Jack Stewart, Simone Bracalello, Brian Cvilikas, Devin Del Do and Amani Walker.