Following the 2009 USL First Division season the long running Minnesota Thunder folded. Shortly after they were brought back to life as a Phoenix club by the National Sports Center with many of the same players and staff, including the Head Coach.
Prior to the 2010 season a feud was going on between the USL and the newly founded North American Soccer League about the sanctioning of D2 soccer. In the end neither the new NASL or existing USL First Division would be sanctioned as Division 2 for 2010; rather the USSF setup a temporary league, the USSF D2 Pro League. This is the league that would see the debut of the team now known as Minnesota United.
Former Thunder head coach Manny Lagos was the first head coach of NSC Minnesota. He would serve as head coach of NSC/Stars/Loons through 2015. In 2016 he was named as Sporting Director of MNUFC. He now serves as Chief Soccer Officer, a role he was just appointed too, for the club. But where did the players from that first match go?
#10 Johnny Menyongar - He would make 21 appearances for NSC Minnesota between the USSF D2 Pro League and the US Open Cup. Following the 2010 season he would move to play in India, where would finish his career. He joined I-League 2nd Division side United Sikkim in February 2011 before moving to top flight side Shillong Lajong in June, where he would play for one and a half seasons before being loaned to fellow top flight side Dempo. After his loan spell with Dempo, Menyongar moved to Bengaluru for the 2013-14 season, playing in 23 of their 24 matches. In June 2015, nearly a year after being released he announced his retirement.
#9 Warren Ukah - The first American born player in NSC Minnesota’s first ever Starting XI. The Atlanta, GA native would, like Menyongar, play just a single season with NSC Minnesota. Following the USSF D2 Pro League season Ukah would join the Major Indoor Soccer League’s Baltimore Blast for the teams 2010/11 season. After the MISL season he would join FC Tampa Bay (now Tampa Bay Rowdies) for the first NASL season before rejoining the Blast that winter. Following the 2011/12 MISL season Ukah went back outdoors, this time to the Vietnamese National Football First League’s (2nd Division) Hùng Vương An Giang side. After 2 years in Vietnam, Ukah would go back to indoor soccer. He started the 2013/14 season with the PASL side Oxford City FC of Texas, then being traded to the Las Vegas Legends. After playing 7 games with Las Vegas he was traded again to the Ontario Fury. Since retiring Warren Ukah has founded the W9 Soccer System, served as the Technical Director for the Henry County Soccer Association from March 2015 to March 2016. He then served as the Director of Player Development and Education for Nexus Revolution FC Youth Academy from March 2016 to May 2019 and also as President from March 2017 to May 2019 .
#21 Leilei Gao - The Chinese attacking midfielder came to NSC Minnesota after a 7 month spell with Finnish 2nd Division Ykkönen side FC KooTeePee. Goa would only play 10 matches with NSC before being released at the end of June and shortly after heading back to his native China to play for Beijing Baxy F.C. in the 2nd Division China League One. Following the 2010 season Gao would take a nearly 6 year long break from competitive soccer. His break would end when he joined Spanish Segunda División B side UE Cornellà. While he spent two and a half seasons with the club he only made four appearances in his time there. In January 2019 he moved to fellow third division side FC Jumilla. In August he made another move up to La Liga 2 side SD Ponferradina where he currently plays.
#7 Andrei Gotsmanov - The first player on the Starting XI for NSC that played the previous season for the Thunder. The Belarusian native who grew up in Woodbury and played college soccer for Creigton in Omaha had joined the Thunder in late 2009. He continued playing for a Minnesota club joining NSC Minnesota for their first season in 2010. He would be re-signed by the club for the 2011 season before taking a four year break from pro soccer. Gosmanov would re-join the now renamed Minnesota United FC team in August 2015 and would be released in April 2016. He now is GM of Joy of the People, a nonprofit that “more than 1,500 hours of safe, monitored free play soccer time at no cost to participants.”
#15 Devin Del Do - After coming out of Cal State-Northridge, Del Do signed with NSC Minnesota straight away out of college for the clubs first season in 2010. He would stay with the Stars through the end of the 2012 season. After 58 appearances through all competitions, Del Do made the move to Tampa Bay to play for the Rowdies for the 2013 season. He would stay in Tampa Bay amassing just 17 appearances in competitive play scoring once and getting two assists in his two season in Florida. Following the 2014 season Del Do retired from professional soccer and has worked for various medical device companies as a Sales Consultant in the Greater Los Angeles area since then.
#16 Kyle Altman - After taking a year off from professional soccer in 2009, Altman joined NSC Minnesota for his second professional soccer season. He would stay with the club from his signing in 2010 through the end of the Spring season in 2013. In four years with the club the defender played under every name the team has had amassing 102 appearances, 9,048 minutes, and even scored 5 goals. Following his retirement Altman attended the UTSA Medical School in San Antonio, TX and is now a resident Orthopedic Surgeon in the Greenville, SC area.
#3 Andres Arango - Another former Thunder player on the Starting XI for the 2010 NSC Minnesota inaugural match. The Colombian born Canadian Andres Arango would stay with the Stars for only a single season. During his one campaign with NSC Minnesota Arango would make 31 appearances for the team in competitive play. Following the 2010 season Arango would make the move to St. Petersburg to play for FC Tampa Bay. Arango would play for FC Tampa Bay/Tampa Bay Rowdies for three seasons from 2011-13; racking up 66 appearances and 5,623 minutes. After 2013 he retired from professional soccer and is now the U18/U19 head coach for the Chargers Soccer Club Development Academy in Clearwater, FL.
#6 Kevin Friedland - While he is another former Thunder player, Friedland effectively played his entire professional career in Minnesota. Friedland was drafted in the sixth round of the 2003 MLS SuperDraft by the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City) but never appeared for the club and was released in November 2003. In 2004 he joined the Thunder where he would play until they folded following the 2009 season. When NSC Minnesota was founded Freidland was picked up by the new club as both a player and an assistant coach. From 2010 to 2013 he would make 37 appearances with the club, a majority of which came in 2010. After retiring he moved to New Jersey before moving back to Minnesota where he resides and works as a Senior Sales Executive.
#14 Brian Kallman - The first and older of the two Kallman brothers who have played or are playing for Minnesota United. Brian is the first player who truly played his entire professional career with a Minnesota club. Growing up in Woodbury, Kallman went to Jacksonville University before heading to Creighton in his native Omaha to finish out his college career. After graduating he signed with the Thunder and would continue playing under Manny Lagos when he put together the first NSC Minnesota side for 2010. From 2010 to 2015 he amassed 90 appearances for the Stars/Loons in competitive play before announcing his retirement in January 2016. Brian would come back in 2017 to play a season with the NPSL side Minneapolis City SC. Kallman founded, owns, and runs Fùtebol Form & Fitness and has also recently been appointed the Girls High Performance Director of Eagan based Salvo Soccer Club.
#8 Daniel Wasson - Coming over from German 5th Division, side VfL Osnabrück II for the 2010 season Wasson would play three seasons for the Stars. From 2010-12 he amassed 40 appearances in competitive play for NSC Minnesota/Minnesota Stars FC. Following his tenure with Minnesota Wasson joined NPSL side Tulsa Athletic for their inaugural season in 2013. In 2014 he was named captain for Tulsa Athletic where he is last recorded as playing.
#27 Louis Crayton - With 15 years of experience Crayton would finish out his career in Minnesota. The Liberian veteran goalkeeper came to NSC Minnesota after playing in Switzerland for most of his career and DC United in Major League Soccer the previous two seasons. His only appearance for the Stars would come in the season opener against Vancouver Whitecaps where he was replaced after 45 minutes due to injury.
#19 F, Simone Bracalello - Prior to coming to NSC Minnesota, Bracalello last played for Italian Serie C2 side A.C. Prato in 2007/08 and trialed with the A-League’s Newcastle Jets prior to the 2008/09 season. He would play 5 seasons for the Stars/Loons getting 111 appearances and scoring 27 goals while also getting 12 assists. After the 2014 season he would leave Minnesota United for the Carolina RailHawks (now North Carolina FC) where he would play his final season. Bracalello is now the Technical Director for Wake FC in Cary, NC.
#20 F, Brian Cvilikas - The first player on the bench to have played for the Thunder in the previous season. Cvilikas signed with NSC Minnesota after two seasons with the Thunder in 2008 and 2009 where he had 34 appearances for them. In two seasons with the Stars he had 42 appearances for the club. Following the 2011 season he retired from professional soccer and is now part of the Development Academy Staff for the Dynamo-Dash Youth Soccer Club in Houston, TX.
#22 F, Two-Boys Gumede - A promising young player out of the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Gumede was passed up in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. After not being selected in the draft Gumede signed his first professional contract with NSC Minnesota, after making just 7 appearances for the Stars he was let go during the season. He was last recorded playing for the PDL side Derby City Rovers in Louisville, KY during the 2012 season. He now lives back in his native South Africa and has been working for Barachel Christian Academy since 2014.
#26 M, Ely Allen - The second player to come to NSC Minnesota from MLS’ DC United for the 2010 season. Allen would play two seasons for the Stars getting 38 appearances between 2010 and 2011 in competitive play. Allen was released from the Stars in March 2012 and has not played professional soccer since.
#11 D, Chris Clements - Clements joined the Stars after a single season with the Thunder in 2009 after having graduated from the University of Tulsa. With NSC Minnesota, Clements would have 42 appearances over two seasons in 2010 and 2011. He has not played professional soccer since his last season with NSC Minnesota in 2011.
#1 GK, Joseph Warren - The Minneapolis native Warren spent his entire professional career in Minnesota. After playing for St. Thomas in the MIAC he joined the Minnesota Thunder in 1998 for their run to the USISL A-League Championship Final. Warren would play for 10 seasons with the Thunder from 1998-2007. In 2010 he returned to professional play with NSC Minnesota, after 60 appearances for the Stars he would retire following the 2011 season. Since retiring he has coached various different soccer teams and clubs in the Twin Cities metro area and has also worked as a Health and Physical Education teacher.
The 2010 NSC Minnesota season opened with a 2-0 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps at Swangard Stadium. Even with the opening match loss the Stars would make the playoffs finishing 4th in the USL Conference with an 11-12-7 record and 40 points. The Stars would exit the playoffs in the opening round losing to the Carolina RailHawks 4-0 on aggregate.
Next week we’ll cover the 2011 NSC Minnesota team that was a Cinderella story in so many ways.