Heading into the 2012 season the Stars took on their first rebrand. Due to no longer being owned by the National Sports Center they dropped the NSC, made Stars officially part of the name and added FC. This resulted in the new name of Minnesota Stars FC and arguably one of the best logos in all of sports.
Unlike the previous two seasons where the Stars opened up on the road this would be a bit different. Minnesota opened the season at home in early April against Carolina RailHawks in a special “Dome Opener” at the Metrodome in Downtown Minneapolis. The crowd of 8,693 was the largest crowd to ever see a Stars match to that point; and wouldn’t be broken until the 2015 home opener after Minnesota United was announced as an MLS Expansion team.
Now it’s time to take a look at the 11 starters and just two substitutes that saw the pitch that night. Unfortunately again due to the NASL website (while still being up) being stripped of almost all content we’re not able to provide all seven players that were on the bench that day. Sadly this will be a recurring theme for the NASL history of the team. Players Simone Bracalello, Kentaro Takada, Neil Hlavaty, Kyle Altman, Brian Kallman, and Devin Del Do have been covered previously in the series. You can check out the entire series here.
#11 Amani Walker - Walker joined the Stars for his first professional season in 2011. Prior to turning pro he played college soccer for the Anteaters at UC-Irvine while also playing for Orange County Blue Star in the PDL during the summer. Walker would end up playing two seasons for the Stars in 2011 and 2012 amassing 48 appearances, 10 goals, and 6 assists over 2,511 minutes played. In 2013 he joined fellow NASL club Tampa Bay Rowdies for a two season span earning just 17 appearances. For 2015 he joined Orange County Blues (now Orange County SC) in the USL where he is last confirmed as playing.
#10 Simone Bracalello - Played for the Stars/Loons from 2010-14, he then left the club for the Carolina RailHawks where he played his final season. Bracalello is now the Technical Director for Wake FC in Cary, NC.
#23 Miguel Ibarra - Whether you call him Miggy or Batman, Miguel Ibarra has (well had now) been a key component of the Stars and Loons for almost their entire history and that started with his first appearance back in 2012. Prior to joining the Stars, Ibarra played two seasons of college soccer at Taft College in Taft, CA before joining UC-Irvine for his last two seasons. During his first three summers in college he played for the Lancaster Rattlers of the PDL before joining Orange County Blue Star for 2011. Miguel’s first stint with the team began in 2012 and in four seasons he made 94 appearances across all competitions. In 2015 Ibarra was sold to Liga MX side Club León during the summer transfer window. Over the two seasons in Mexico he made just 20 appearances across all competitive play, only 8 of which were in Liga MX. MNUFC acquired Ibarra’s MLS rights from Portland who had drafted him in the 2012 Supplemental Draft but never signed him. The Loons then reacquired him from León prior to the 2017 MLS season. In his second stint in Minnesota, Ibarra made 88 appearances across all competitions scoring 12 goals and getting another 12 assists. Just under one month ago Ibarra’s contract extension was declined by the club, as of early 2020 he will be a free agent unless MNUFC and Ibarra agree to a different contract.
#32 Lucas Rodríguez - A player who is still playing the game to this day, albeit indoors rather than outside. Rodríguez began his college career at Johnson County Community College before moving to play his Junior and Senior seasons for the Pioneers at MidAmerica Nazarene University in the NAIA. During the summer in 2008 and 2009 he played in the PDL for the Kansas City Brass. In the winter of 2010 he joined the Missouri (now Kansas City) Comets for their first season in the third incarnation of the Major Indoor Soccer League. He initially joined NSC Minnesota in the summer of 2010 for the Stars first season. In three seasons with the Stars he made 69 appearances playing 4,826 minutes. After not playing in the summer of 2014 he joined Jacksonville Armada FC for 2015 where he made 17 appearances playing 997 minutes. He has since exclusively played indoors for the Comets in the Major Arena Soccer League.
#13 Kentaro Takada - Played for the Stars/Loons from 2011-15, joined St. Louis FC for two seasons before playing for the NPSL Atlanta Silverbacks for a single season. He is now retired and the Select Director for the Tucker Youth Soccer Association in Tucker, GA.
#4 Neil Hlavaty - Played for the Stars from 2010-12, after three years in the Twin Cities he has played for FC Edmonton, Carolina RailHawks, Fort Lauderdale Strikers, Myrtle Beach Mutiny, and Richmond Kickers. He is now n assistant coach with Forward Madison FC in USL League One.
#2 Justin Davis - One of the NASL era players who made the jump to MLS in 2017. Davis played four years for the Lobos at the University of New Mexico while also playing in the PDL with Des Moines Menace during the summer. Davis turned professional in 2011 signing with NSC Minnesota. In 6 years with Minnesota United in the NASL he made 169 appearances across all competitive play but in his lone season in MLS he made only 9 appearances. Following his release from the club in 2017 he joined USL side Nashville SC where he has made 62 appearances for 5,148 minutes. As of the writing of this he has not signed on to Nashville’s MLS Expansion side and does not have a club for 2020.
#16 Kyle Altman - Played for the Stars/Loons from 2010 through the Spring season in 2013. He then retired and attended medical school at UTSA and is now a resident Orthopedic Surgeon in the Greenville, SC area.
#14 Brian Kallman - The older of the Kallman brothers played for the Thunder from 2006-09 then for the Stars/Loons from 2010-15 before retiring professionally in January 2016. Since retiring he founded, owns, and runs Fùtebol Form & Fitness and has also recently been appointed the Girls High Performance Director of Eagan based Salvo Soccer Club.
#3 Cristiano Dias - Cristiano came to Minnesota in 2011 after spending four seasons with Miami FC (who rebranded in 2011 at Fort Lauderdale Strikers). From 2011-15 he made 98 league appearances and 3 USOC ones for the Stars/Loons for 8,663 minutes in his five year tenure. During his time with MNUFC he also played two indoor seasons with the Missouri Comets in 2011/12 and 12/13. In 2016 he joined fellow NASL side Puerto Rico FC where he made 36 appearances over two years, where he was last recorded playing.
#30 Matt Van Oekel - Another player who’s professional career started and had a long span in Minnesota. After one season at Longwood University and three at Rutgers the 6’ 4” keeper joined the Minnesota Thunder for the 2008 season. In the Thunder’s final two seasons Van Oekel made just a single appearance for the side. He was signed by NSC Minnesota prior to the 2010 seasons though primarily served as a backup behind veteran keeper Joseph Warren. With Warren’s retirement Van Oekel took the spot as starting keeper in 2012. In total he played 5 seasons with NSC Minnesota/Minnesota United from 2010-14 appearing 79 times and putting together 16 clean sheets. Following his span in Minnesota he left for Flyover Cup rival FC Edmonton where he played for two seasons, getting another 61 appearances and 23 clean sheets. For 2017 he signed with MLS side Real Salt Lake but only saw action 7 times while also making a single appearance for their reserve side Real Monarchs SLC. In 2018 he moved down to USL side OKC Energy FC which saw him play 19 times and concede 31 goals. For 2019 he jumped to USL Championship expansion side Birmingham Legion where he played in 31 matches and held 11 clean sheets.
#9 MF, Martin Núñez - Núñez signed with Carolina RailHawks in 2008 to begin his professional career, after one season in Cary, NC he signed with Puerto Rico Islanders. After just a single season with the Islanders he moved to Miami FC, who had initially selected him in the 2007 USL College Player Draft. He would re-sign with the newly re-branded Fort Lauderdale Strikers for the 2011 NASL season. After just seeing 31 appearances in two seasons Núñez signed with defending NASL Champion, Minnesota Stars. In his lone season he would make 28 appearances in the NASL and 2 in the USOC for the Stars. Following the 2012 season he went back down to Florida and re-signed with the Strikers, playing there for another two seasons. He then signed his last contract with Tampa Bay Rowdies in 2015 seeing the field just 15 times with them.
#15 Devin Del Do - Played for NSC Minnesota Stars from 2010-12. Retired following the 2014 season and is a Sales Consultant in the Greater Los Angeles area,
Rest of the Season:
Minnesota opened up with a 0-0 draw against Carolina and started the season well, going on an unbeaten run that lasted into June. However that loss started a skid that saw the Stars win only 3 times in a 12 week time span. Following the 3-8-1 span the Stars turned it around just good enough to make the playoffs. Going 1-1-5 in the final seven games to finish in 6th place, the final playoff spot, with an 8-9-11 record and 35 points.
While the team wasn’t fantastic in the league they did make a run in the US Open Cup, A 2-0 win over the Des Moines Menace moved them on to the third round where they defeated Real Salt Lake 3-1 on the road. The win against RSL set up a match against San Jose in the fourth round, where the Stars were narrowly defeated 1-0.
In similar fashion to the 2011 Playoffs the first round saw Minnesota take a long road trip for a single game elimination round. A 2-1 win in Puerto Rico would not only send them to a two game series with San Antonio but would also be the Islanders final match ever.
The Semi-Finals opened up in Blaine with the Stars and Scorpions drawing 0-0 before shifting the second game to San Antonio. Facing a win or go home game the Stars took the 2-1 win on the road putting them into their second straight NASL Soccer Bowl.
Just like the 2011 Soccer Bowl it opened up at NSC Stadium in Blaine, MN against a Florida team. This time it was Tampa Bay Rowdies who were the visitors but the end result still saw Minnesota winning. Taking a 2-0 aggregate lead into the final match it was the Stars Championship to win but the Rowdies won 3-1 to tie the aggregate score and have the Soccer Bowl determined in a shootout. The shootout also went to Tampa Bay as the Rowdies took the penalty kicks 3-2 to send Minnesota home without the trophy.