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NSC Minnesota Stars Win the 2011 NASL Championship

2011 October 30
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by Brian Quarstad

Fort Lauderdale, Florida -

Stars captain Kyle Altman kisses the cup. Photos by Jeremy Olson - www.digitalgopher.net

For the second time in Minnesota history a professional soccer team has brought home a national championship. The NSC Minnesota Stars ground out a gutsy 0-0 draw with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers Saturday evening at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Florida. The second leg result combined with last week’s 3-1 Stars win over the Strikers meant Minnesota wins the NASL Championship 3-1 aggregate.

The last time Minnesota hoisted a trophy was in 1999 when the Minnesota Thunder defeated the Rochester Rhinos for the A-League Championship at the NSC Stadium in Blaine, Minnesota. The coach of that team was the legendary Buzz Lagos who is synonymous with soccer in Minnesota. The coach of this year’s national champions is also a Lagos, Manny, the son of Buzz. Manny knows a thing or two himself about winning titles. He played on three different MLS Cup Championship teams in his career before retiring and taking on the head coaching position last season for the Minnesota Stars.

“He’s one of the most amazing coaches ever,” said Manny Lagos in reference to his father. “He’s been such a legacy to how he’s gotten us to this point. He’s such an amazing man and such an amazing legacy from Minnesota that a lot of these people wouldn’t be here and these fans wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. It’s special and obviously for me, he has high expectations for me. So it’s nice to feel like hopefully I’ve lived up to them this year.”

Explaining the team’s post-season success after finishing 6th in the NASL’s 8 team league, Lagos reminded reporters that his team sat in a much high position most of the season. “A lot of people have to remember there was only 5 points from 6th to 3rd place. That’s a big thing about the competitiveness of this (NASL) league. We just had one little bad stretch that got us in trouble. We had great start, a good middle but a bad middle third. Then we finished the season strong.”

Minnesota was under attack from the early stages of this second leg championship game. Thanks to a committed midfield they threw men behind the ball and kept the Strikers, who needed 2 goals to draw the series even, from having quality chances. In fact the Strikers out-shot the Stars in the first half but never put a shot on Stars goalkeeper Joe Warren.

The second half saw Fort Lauderdale make several substitutions and throw players forward to attack Minnesota’s goal. But the midfield of Minnesota continued their impressive late-season form stifling the Strikers from getting balls served into their attackers. As the game dragged on it was apparent that Minnesota would absorb the pressure from the Strikers and try to retain their two-goal aggregate lead. Eventually the thwarted effort frustrated Fort Lauderdale. With the Strikers stretched thin in defense, Minnesota created several chances themselves and had a number of nice strings of possession.

“We dug ourselves a hole in Minnesota,” said Strikers coach Daryl Shore. “Give them some credit, they won their game at home and came to our place and defend well. We had a tough time breaking them down.”

“It just wasn’t our night tonight,” Strikers defender Martyn Lancaster said. “I think we could have been playing all night and we still wouldn’t have scored. Give credit to Minnesota tonight, they defended like lions.”

“Our fans that traveled here, we didn’t get to give them a good game, but we got them a trophy, so that’s the important part,” said central defender and team captain Kyle Altman, referring to the 20 or so Minnesota Dark Clouds supporters as well as many parents, grandparents, wives and girlfriends who also made the trip to South Florida.

“We didn’t intend to sit back and defend for 90 minutes but as the game progressed it looked like that was just going to be the nature of it. I thought our midfield defended great as they cut off a lot of supply to their forwards which made our job a lot easier. It was just a solid performance all the way around. They don’t lose a lot of games here and we knew it was going to be difficult. But I guarantee you every single person on this team is happy with the 0-0 score.”

Altman said this is his first national championship of any sort although he came close in college playing for division 3 Trinity University. “We lost the NCAA D-III Championship in penalty kicks in Orlando, in my senior year. We tied that game 0-0 too, but lost on PKs. So it’s good to win one 0-0. This feels fantastic.”

“For the most part tonight, the guys put in a valiant effort. There was such commitment to defend for 90 minutes. I think it’s such a moment for the guys. Credit to them, they have been so amazing this year. If people knew the commitment and effort they put in, not just on the field but off the field, what they do in the community, how they represent themselves, how they believe in what we’re trying to do in Minnesota – I’m just so happy for them. It’s very rare to win a championship, and they are champions.”

“I hope that by winning this championship, by the way we’ve done it, the story we’ve told, that it will bring awareness to finally find the right owner for this team,” Lagos concluded.”

The Stars return to Minnesota at 10:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 31. Fans are welcome to meet them in Terminal 2 at the Minneapolis-St. Paul airport and are also encouraged to attend a championship celebration at Brit’s Pub in downtown Minneapolis starting at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday night.

“We don’t want to shy away from what we are, and that’s a team that’s owned by the league and looking for the right owner,” Lagos said. “I hope the pride we bring back to the state open eyes and gives Minnesotans some pride in this state as a soccer market. We’re looking forward to coming home and sharing this moment with the fans who weren’t able to travel.”

More of Jeremy Olson’s photos of the championship match can be found on the IMSoccer News Facebook page.

28 Responses
  1. bullsear permalink
    October 30, 2011

    CONGRATULATIONS STARS!

  2. Bart permalink
    October 30, 2011

    Now….what happens to this championship team next season? This is a true “Hoosiers” epic.

  3. Ski Dawg permalink
    October 30, 2011

    Congratulations to NSC Minnesota!

  4. Mike permalink
    October 30, 2011

    Congrats to the Stars, but that game displayed everything I hate about 2 game/total goal aggregate. It was worse than watching paint dry. Can’t blame the Stars for it though. Being up 2 on the road, they put 10 men behind the ball and packed in, exactly what they should have done. As for the Strikers, they need a couple of good strikers. The Stars barely came forward all night, and they had the better chances! Did Warren even have a make a save? The USL-Pro and WPS championships at least had some excitement, this was just…ugh!

    Kudos to the Dark Clouds for making the trip, those are some serious diehard fans.

  5. Matt Legas permalink
    October 30, 2011

    Nicely done Stars! Now let’s see where we can take this thing. Let’s go for two next year!

  6. Grant Stephens permalink
    October 30, 2011

    Congratulations to the Minnesota Stars! Great championship win for the inaugural game!

    And kudos to the Strikers too! Great season for you and lots to be proud of….

  7. Ivan permalink
    October 30, 2011

    Congrats! Having the game on Gol TV, even if it was on tape delay, brings an air of legitimacy to the league. Hope Gol TV can show more games next season!

  8. tomASS permalink
    October 30, 2011

    Congrats Stars and the whole organization.

    The St. Louis Cardinals of the NASL

  9. Gerry Wittmann permalink
    October 30, 2011

    Congratulations to Manny Lagos and the Stars….great championship run to earn the NASL title.

  10. WSW permalink
    October 30, 2011

    Congrats

  11. drebin permalink
    October 30, 2011

    Congrats! I’m happy for the team and the people of Minnesota have something special in their midst to be proud of.

  12. Nordmann permalink
    October 30, 2011

    Congratulations to the Stars and everything they’ve done this season! What a great run to be a part of.

    I still think the 2 game/aggregate score is the way to go – yeah this was a defensive game, but that doesn’t mean they all were. The first game of the series was fantastic and lets not forget the amazing game 2 of the MN – CAR series. The two game aggregate score has just as much to do with the intensity of those games as it did with the nature of last night’s game. I think it would also be important to note the effect of the weather – that rain seemed intense.

  13. Soccer Boy permalink
    October 30, 2011

    What a great season. Second year in a row the last team to make the play-offs win it all. Thank you Stars for never giving up!

    @Yankiboy, I guaranteed it. Thanks for believing me!

    @MichiganMike, so do you still think the Stars suck?

    PS: Fred Flinestone, Barney Ruble and Mr. Slate did a great job officiating the match last night. (Only people that watched it on the WWW know what I am talking about!)

  14. thesuperrookie permalink
    October 30, 2011

    MOJITOS FROM THE SOCCER BOWL!

    I will never forget this game.

  15. Fotbalist permalink
    October 30, 2011

    Congrats to the Stars! Let’s hope a serious ownership group comes about. But in all honesty, the NSC people were very successful and professional also. So….
    Manny Lagos deserves praise, which is not a surprise and so do all the MN players!
    Hopefully we’ll start seeing some news from USSoccer about NASL sanctioning and Open Cup participation. Can’t wait to see if new teams beyond San Antonio will join!

  16. October 30, 2011

    Congrats guys. It was great to meet some of you at the tailgate.

  17. October 30, 2011

    Thanks Uncle Ed for having me on your show last week and for the hospitality at the tailgate. You guys were great. Maybe next year….

  18. Mark Kulda permalink
    October 31, 2011

    Congrats to the Stars. Way to finish it off. It was an ugly game and the worst part about having to watch the live stream was that the commentators for the live stream were total homers for the Strikers. Would have been nice to have a Minnesota voice on there. But a fantastic way to finish off the season.

  19. October 31, 2011

    Congrats to the STARS !!!! Well Done !!!!! And a special shout out to “Papa” Joe who now has his Championship !!!!!

  20. Strikers Return permalink
    October 31, 2011

    Congratulations to the Stars, BQ, and all of the Minnesota fans. Credit the Stars for getting the result they needed at home to be able to come to rainy South Florida (I’ll be damned if it didn’t pour every time we had a big game this year….sheesh) and stifle the Strikers to close it out. It was a dreary night, and a rather boring game as some have noted, and it sent a lot of wet Striker Likers home frustrated. Couldn’t bring myself to watch another team celebrate on our home field, so when the final whistle blew, I hung my head and headed for the car.

    The weather plus already being sick with a cold kept me from showing up early for tailgating and trying to scout out BQ hanging with the Ultras and Flight 19. WOuld have been nice to have a beer and shake your hand. Maybe next year!

    Now we can turn our attention to the always interesting offseason. I’m looking forward to the time when BQ’s Stars celebrations start to dwindle, and he lets us all in on whatever interesting info I’m sure he poked around for while down here regarding the league and Traffic! As always, I’ll be swinging by IMS regularly, depending on BQ to keep us all up to date and informed on everything.

  21. October 31, 2011

    Congratulations to the Stars. They handled their business home and away and earned the trophy. Strikers had a great run but the stretch of good form ended in leg 1. The only goal we got in the Championship Series was an own goal by MIN.

    Cheers to “the team that nobody wanted”!

    Also, major props to the Dark Clouds for making the trip down. The NASL has some GREAT fans.

    We can talk about the business model and sanctioning and ownership and all that stuff for hours on end, but on the field the NASL put a great product out there in 2011. Here’s hoping it only gets better in 2012.

  22. November 1, 2011

    SR, I did stop in at the tailgate and hung out with Uncle Ed and Pieter Brown from the Miami Ultras Alive show which I was a guest on a week or so ago. Good times.

  23. yankiboy permalink
    November 1, 2011

    Stars got it done! Props to all the Stars supporters and to the Strikers supporters (especially Strikers Return and Uncle Ed and PB) for the way that they have supported the club over the years.

  24. Footy76 permalink
    November 1, 2011

    Is all NASL games going to be on Gol TV. I can only hope!!

  25. November 1, 2011

    I very much doubt it. Expect live streaming again but it is possible they work a deal out with GolTV to have some games or occasional games on that network. We will see what happens in the offseason but first lets focus on sanctioning.

  26. footy76 permalink
    November 1, 2011

    Thier gose that dirty little word again sanctioning. I cant see why Gol TV would turn them down it a good chance to grab U.S fans and be more relevant in the Soccer market.

  27. Strikers Return permalink
    November 2, 2011

    @BQ – Have you heard anything more about the meetings between the league and the USSF? Everyone seemed positive leading up to it, and I assume Mr. Flynn being at the final was a good sign, yes? It will be huge if they can get the sanctioning in place early this time, ie. – this month would be nice. Having that extra time will be very important for the clubs with respect to necessary business with both players and in marketing.

  28. November 2, 2011

    Sorry, SR. Look at the site and I think you can see I’ve been seriously treading water trying to keep up with the local soccer secene since getting back Sunday night. Board of Governors for NASL was in your home town this weekend but I didn’t get the chance to talk to anyone about it and doubt they would have talked about it anyway. Maybe in a week or so after State HS Tourney, Big Ten tourney and extra Stars celebrations end I can start thinking about that but not right now.

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