The Minnesota Stars will return a core of 18 players for the 2012 North American Soccer League season after exercising options on a goalkeeper, six defenders, eight midfielders and three forwards. The Stars also elected not pick up five contract options. The Stars will be defending their NASL Championship in 2012.
Goalkeeper Matt VanOekel will return to Minnesota in 2012. VanOekel made one start in 2011 and has made seven appearances overall for the Stars since 2010.
The Stars also exercised the options of six defenders, five of whom saw significant time in 2011. Left back Justin Davis; center backs Kyle Altman, Cristiano Dias, Gino Mauro and Jack Stewart; and right back Brian Kallman will all return to the club in 2012. Altman, Davis, Dias, Kallman and Stewart combined for 113 appearances in defense in 2011.
The Stars hold the rights for 2012 for midfielders Ely Allen, Jeff Cosgriff, Andrei Gotsmanov, Neil Hlavaty, Andy Lorei, Lucas Rodriguez and Kentaro Takada, who accounted for a large number of starts in midfield during the season. The seven midfielders returning accounted for 16 goals for the Stars in 2011.
The club also exercised options on forwards Simone Bracalello, Brian Cvilikas, Devin Del Do and Amani Walker. The four forwards combined for 15 goals in 2011.
“We’re really excited to bring back a large majority of the team that was successful last year and continue to build a team around those pieces,” Stars head coach Manny Lagos said. “We also really appreciate the contributions of those players who we chose not to bring back. We made some really tough decisions, and we wish those players well as they continue their careers.”
The Stars chose not to pick up the options of defenders Chris Clements and John Gilkerson, midfielders Sandy Gbandi and Geison Moura and forward Tino Nunez. Clements and Moura had each spent two years with the club, while Gbandi, Gilkerson and Nunez each signed prior to the 2011 season.
Photo courtsey of Jermey Olson/Digital Gopher
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