Even before the first round of the 2012 NASL Playoffs, the then named Minnesota Stars FC were already looking towards 2013. Rather than preparing for the season it was desperation to find a new owner for the club so there could be another season. Finding an owner was a difficult task, only made more so by the Minnesota Vikings wanting to put an MLS club in the then in development new stadium. A late October deadline, looming just after the end of the Playoffs was fast approaching.
An NASL Soccer Bowl loss to Tampa Bay could have been the end of the Minnesota Stars and the NASL in Minnesota. On November 2nd, 2012 it was reported by various outlets that the Stars had new owners and would be competing in the 2013 NASL season. A week later on the 9th, Dr. Bill McGuire was introduced as the club’s new owner.
“You’d talk to people about the Stars, and they’d say, ‘Sure, that’s the hockey team, they left a long time ago,’” said Rogers. “I think the name had a lot of connection to hockey. So I think it’s a fair criticism to say it’s kind of generic, but it’s also fair to say that ‘Stars’ was itself kind of generic. United is a name that unequivocally says soccer. And there’s only one other pro soccer team in the country with United in their name [DC United]. So we felt good about it.”
In that press conference the club also unveiled the first version of their now iconic and much loved “Loon Wing” kit. That kit would make it’s debut in the Fall Season opener against Atlanta Silverbacks (which happens to be the first ever match I saw) at NSC Stadium in Blaine. But before we get there we need to look at the 11 men who started on the pitch to open the season for the Loons. Once again the match, along with the entire Spring Schedule, would be played at the Metrodome with Manny Lagos at the helm of the new look Loons. Wearing just plain black uniforms the side would host the San Antonio Scorpions to open the 2013 NASL season.
#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.
#10 Etienne Barbara - With a long career spanning multiple countries and half the globe Barbara brought a wealth of experience with him to Minnesota United. Almost his entire career was played prior to signing with MNUFC in 2013. In 1999 Barbara began his professional career playing for Floriana in his native Malta. After four seasons with them he moved to Marsaxlokk FC making 43 appearances over two seasons for the side. He would then join Birkirkara FC for two seasons with that side making another 59 appearances. In 2007 ahead of what would be his second to final season in his native Malta he joined Sliema Wanderers making 23 appearances. In nearly a decade in Malta Barbara made 229 appearances scoring a total of 68 goals. For the 2008/09 season he moved to German fourth division side SC Verl making 18 appearances; after a single season in Germany he went back to Malta to play for Hibernians. In 2010 he made the move to the United States joining the Carolina RailHawks, where he would stay for two season outside of a brief offseason loan back to Sliema Wanderers. Following his two years in Cary, NC he signed with Vancouver Whitecaps in Major League Soccer. After a year hampered by injuries he was released after only two appearances. He then signed with MNUFC but was traded to Tampa Bay Rowdies on August 1st. Following his short stint in Tampa Bay he retired as a player. In December of 2018 Barbara was appointed the Head Coach of Henderson, NV based Heat FC’s U12 and U13 girls teams.
#8 Michael Reed - Reed joined Minnesota United in 2012 after having played college soccer for four seasons at the University of New Mexico for the Lobos. From 2012-2014 he played for the Stars and Loons making just 31 appearances in that time span. Reed left to join Atlanta Silverbacks in 2015 where he 29 appearances that season. Following a single season in Atlanta he moved to the newly founded San Antonio FC club in the USL. Following two seasons in the Lone Star State, Nashville SC acquired his rights prior to the 2018 season.
#23 Miguel Ibarra - Ibarra played for the Stars/Loons from 2012 to the summer of 2015. During that summer he was sold to Liga MX side Club León. Ibarra would rejoin the Loons in 2017 ahead of the team’s first season in MLS and stayed with the club through 2019. His contract option was declined towards the beginning of the 2019/20 offseason and as of writing this he is a free agent for 2020.
#32 Lucas Rodríguez - Rodríguez played professionally for Minnesota Stars/MNUFC from 2010 through the 2013 season. He joined Jacksonville Armada for the 2015 season which was his last season outdoors. Since 2010 he has also played indoors for the Kansas City Comets of the Major Indoor Soccer League and now Major Arena Soccer League.
#2 Justin Davis - Davis joined the then named NSC Minnesota team ahead of the 2011 season and continued playing for the club through the transition into MLS. After the 2017 season he was released by MNUFC and joined USL expansion side Nashville SC. He played in Nasville during the 2018 and 2019 USL Championship campaigns. As of the publishing of this article he has not been signed by any club for the 2020 season.
#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.
#20 Connor Tobin - A name all of our Forward Madison fans will know fairly well Connor Tobin is also a former Loon. After playing four seasons of college soccer at the University of Vermont, Tobin would turn pro. He wouldn’t play in the US though, instead joining Norwegian 3rd Division side Nybergsund IL-Trysil for the 2009 and 2010 seasons. In 2011 he came back to the US to join Rochester Rhinos of the United Soccer League, playing there for one season before joining the Minnesota Stars. In two seasons in the Twin Cities he made 28 appearances for the Stars/Loons. After two seasons in the Upper Midwest he headed to Cary, NC where he spent 5 seasons with the Carolina RailHawks/North Carolina FC in the NASL and USL. After 5 years and 129 appearances Tobin moved to Forward Madison FC in USL League One where he made 28 appearances in their inaugural 2019 campaign.
#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.
#4 Aaron Pitchkolan - A four year player for MNUFC who had a long career elsewhere. The Colorado native played one season at the University of Tampa; leading the Spartans to the NCAA Division II Championship before transferring to West Virginia University. While the team wasn’t very successful on the pitch during his time at WVU, Pitchkolan made 54 appearances and scored 11 goals during his three years with the Mountaineers. Following his senior year at WVU he returned to Colorado to play a season with Boulder Rapids Reserve in the PDL. During his one season in Boulder he made 19 appearances on the teams way to the National Final, where they fell 1-0 to the Central Florida Kraze. While Pitchkolan was bypassed in the SuperDraft he was selected in the Second Round of the Supplemental Draft by FC Dallas. From 2005 to early 2009 he made 68 appearances with FCD before being sent to San Jose Earthquakes in April 2009. After only making 9 appearances while in the Bay Area the Quakes released him through Waivers in early 2010. Pitchkolan then immediately signed for the Rochester Rhinos in the USSF D2 Pro League for 2010 then moved to the NASL’s Puerto Rico Islanders in 2011. 2012 would see him play a single year with the San Antonio Scorpions before settling in with Minnesota United starting in 2013. In his four seasons with the Loons, Pitchkolan made 96 league appearances with the club but was not signed for MNUFC’s move to MLS. In his final season as a player he signed with Jacksonville Armada for the NASL’s final season making 31 appearances in a 32 match season. Following 2017 he retired but was named assistant coach for the now NPSL Armada side for 2018. In 2019 he was named Head Coach of the U-23 Armada side, who replaced the Senior side in the NPSL.
#33 Daryl Sattler - Sattler came to Minnesota United towards the end of his career in 2013 after playing professionally for a decade prior to coming to the Twin Cities. After a standout four year career at Western Kentucky University played on more season for the PDL’s Nashville Metros, whom he had played for in the summer of 2003. After two seasons in Nashville he joined the Memphis Express for 2005 before heading back to Nashville for 2006. In 2007 he signed with the USL First Division’s Atlanta Silverbacks. While he was in Atlanta for two seasons he never made a single appearance for the side serving as a backup. After two seasons without seeing the field, Sattler joined USL Second Division side Wilmington Hammerheads for 2009. In Wilmington he made 13 appearances for the side in the 20 match regular season. In 2010 he moved back up to the second division with FC Tampa Bay, making 20 appearances and cementing himself as starter. He stayed with the club in 2011 but was relegated to backup only appearing four times. In 2012 he moved to fellow NASL side San Antonio Scorpions, once again cementing himself as the starter and making 27 appearances. After a single season in Texas he moved to Minnesota and made just 6 starts for the Loons. In those six starts he was able to get 2 clean sheets and conceded 9 goals in the other 4 games across 540 minutes. After the lone season in the North Star State he went back to the Lone Star State making just one start for the Scorpions in 2014. His final season in 2015 saw him return to the Scorpions for a third season and make 11 appearances. Since retiring after 2015 he has been the Goalkeeping Coach for Jacksonville Armada from 2016-18 and the Goalkeeper Director for their Youth Academy from 2016 to the fall of 2019. In 2017 he founded EPIC Goalkeeping offering various levels of goalkeeper training. In 2019 he joined Bentley Sports Group as the Lead Coach and Business Manager USA.
#22 D, Kevin Venegas - For 5 seasons in the NASL, Venegas was an integral part of the back line for Minnesota United FC. After a college career at Cal State Fullerton and a year in the PDL with Orange County prior to his Senior year in college he joined MNUFC on his first professional contract. During the five seasons in NASL he made 110 appearances for the Loons and would be signed by the club as one of few NASL hold over when the team entered Major League Soccer. In his lone MLS season however he only made 7 appearances in MLS and one in the Open Cup, partially due to battling a hamstring injury for 2 months. Following his release from MNUFC he joined Indy Eleven in the United Soccer League for the 2018 season making 21 appearances in Indy. After one year in the USL Venegas signed for the professional New York Cosmos “B” in the NPSL and NPSL Members Cup where the Cosmos lost the NPSL National Championship to fellow professional side Miami FC and fell 2 points shy of the Members Cup Championship.
#13 MF, 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.
#21 F, Travis Wall - After four seasons of play with Ohio Wesleyan University in the NCAA Division III, Wall signed his first professional contract with MNUFC. Over the 2 seasons he played for the Stars/Loons he made just 11 appearances for the side but also was an Assistant Coach with the St. Thomas Tommies for those two seasons. In 2014 he continued his coaching career moving on to Xavier University in Cincinnati, OH as the Director of Soccer Operations. In 2015 he went back to his Alma Mater, Ohio Wesleyan University, to continue his career as Associate Head Coach and Recruiting Coordinator. Following four years on the staff at OWU he was named as head coach of St. Olaf in the MIAC. In his first season as head coach in 2019 he lead the Oles to a 5-5 record in the MIAC and 9-10 overall, an improvement over the 2-8 conference and 5-13 overall record the team had in 2018 before he arrived.
#3 D, Cristiano Dias - After spending four seasons with Miami FC (who rebranded in 2011 at Fort Lauderdale Strikers) Cristiano came to Minnesota in 2011 and played for the club through 2015. During his time with MNUFC he also played two indoor seasons with the Missouri Comets in 2011/12 and 12/13. After his time with the Loons he joined Puerto Rico FC in 2016.
#5 D, Edi Buro - A Bosnian native but raised in the Twin Cities, he played for Hamline University for one season in 2006 making 17 appearances. In 2010 he returned to his native Bosnia and Herzegovina to play for BPL side FK Buducnost where he made two appearances before moving to NK Travnik for the 2011/12 season making another two appearances. Over two seasons with the Stars/Loons he made just three appearances for the side before being released prior to 2014. Currently Buro is the Director of Coaches and Player Development at White Bear Soccer Club.
#6 D, Kevin Friedland - Friedland effectively played his entire professional career in Minnesota, while he was drafted in the sixth round of the 2003 MLS SuperDraft by the Kansas City Wizards (now Sporting Kansas City) he never appeared for the club and was released in November 2003. He would join the Minnesota Thunder in 2004 playing with the side until they folded in 2009. In 2010 he joined NSC Minnesota and played for the Stars through 2013. After retiring he moved to New Jersey before moving back to Minnesota where he resides and works as a Senior Sales Executive.
#30 Matt Van Oekel - Van Oekel started his professional career with the Minnesota Thunder in 2008, after they folded he joined NSC Minnesota in 2010. From 2010-14 he would stay with the Stars/Loons before leaving for FC Edmonton in 2015. After two seasons in Alberta Van Oekel signed with MLS side Real Salt Lake but split time with them and their USL side Real Monarchs SLC. After only one year in Utah he moved to USL Championship side Oklahoma City Energy FC for 2018 and then moved again to fellow USLC side Birmingham Legion for 2019.
Rest of the Season:
A new owner however wouldn't mean immediate success, in fact the shocking success the team had the previous few seasons as the Stars seemed to disappear. After opening the season in front of a crowd of 6,794 fans at the Metrodome to a 0-0 draw the team won two straight games before drawing their fourth match. After that it seemed to go down hill as the Loons lost 6 of their next 8 matches to finish the Spring Season with a 4-6-2 record.
The playoff format changed this year as well with only the Spring Season and Fall Season Champions moving on to a single game Soccer Bowl Championship match. This format change also saw the New York Cosmos enter only during the Fall Season rather than for the entirety of the 2013 schedule.
In August the Fall Season opened with a 1-0 loss in Blaine to the Atlanta Silverbacks in front of a crowd of 5,884. The first half of the fall schedule was very much hot and cold with MNUFC going 2-3-2 in the first seven matches. After a 1-0 loss to the Cosmos in the 7th match of the Fall Schedule the Loons appeared to turn things around with a 2-1 win over Edmonton on the road and a 1-0 home win over San Antonio. But bad luck struck again with a three match losing streak, starting with a 1-0 loss to the Cosmos. The Loons would finish the season on a strong note, winning their final home match 3-1 over the Fort Lauderdale Strikers then beating the Tampa Bay Rowdies 6-4 in St. Petersburg to end the 2013 NASL season.