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Guest post Q&A: Jon Marthaler interviews Kevin Friedland of the Minnesota Stars FC

  • Blog Post by: Michael Rand
  • April 4, 2012 - 3:14 PM

Weekend Links Proprietor Jon Marthaler is also known -- to some -- as a soccer enthusiast. He recently caught up with Kevin Friedland, who wears about 18 hats for the local pro soccer team, the Minnesota Stars FC. The Stars won the North American Soccer League championship last season and begin defense of that title on Saturday with a match at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the Metrodome against Carolina. [Most home games are at the National Sports Center in Blaine].

Marthaler will post the full Q&A soon on his site -- one with Stars CEO Djorn Buchholz is already up --  but here is a taste:

Q: You played in the last big soccer game at the Dome, the David Beckham game. What do you remember from that game?

A: That was probably one of the best experiences I've had in Minnesota, in my nine years here so far. ... There was really only three weeks to build up - I think they sold tickets for only three weeks leading up to that game. I'm sure of the [announced crowd of about 20,000], most of them were there to see David Beckham, but it was just kind of a great experience. It was very professional, the way the whole thing was run. Having that many people there -- that whole bottom bowl was full. It was a cool experience to pay in front of that many people, and it was one of his first exhibition games. It was the first year that he was in the league, so it wasn't like he had played in every city at that point.

Q: Last year was frustrating for you - only two appearances, both as a substitute. What are your goals on the field this year?

A: I hope to contribute more on the field. I think the way the league has changed, we've gone down to only three subs. We used to have five subs, and I think as a defender, typically you like to keep your back line intact throughout a game. I just have to stay ready, and if I'm called upon I'm ready to go. I obviously have a lot of experience in the league, but also being an older player and a coach, there are times where I have to put other guys ahead of myself if that's the right decision.

Q: What’s your role on the coaching staff, especially if you’re also out there competing as a player?

A: In the off-season and in the pre-season, I take on a bit more responsibility. I help find a lot of the players that we bring in, though I don't really make the final decision on who makes the team -- but I have influence there. But my job is to get as many players to Minnesota, in front of [head coach] Manny [Lagos] and [assistant coach] Carl [Craig] as possible. Throughout the season, because of my familiarity with a lot of the players and other teams, I handle a lot of the matchups and talking to our guys about different players on the other teams and their tendencies. I work a lot with our set pieces and the matchups we do on corner kicks -- who's going to mark who, and stuff like that. It's a lot of that. It's probably more behind the scenes -- then when I'm training or playing, I'm really just a player.

Q: You’re also a member of the front office. You do interviews, you promote the team - I even saw a picture on Twitter of you directing a photo shoot. Is there anything with this club that you don't do?

A: I think at this point I've done it all. I'll pick up the locker room, I've done kit man duties. It can be a humbling experience at times, where as a player I think you don't realize everything that goes on to make a team happen. Especially with our size -- we really only have six people in the front office, and two of the six are players. It's something that when you're just playing, you don't realize everything that goes into it.  Actually right now as we're talking, I'm in the basement at Planet Soccer, working on printing our jerseys. I think my roommates will tell you - I live with Kyle Altman and Neil Hlavaty - they see me working all the time, sometimes too much, but stuff's got to get done. I think that's kind of the mentality of our office.

Q: What do you do in your role as director of business development for the Stars?

I have a lot of responsibilities with that, but the easiest way to put it is, part of my job is to not just find different revenue streams - whether it's merchandising or finding other events. ... But also, part of my job is to make sure that the club looks as professional as possible, so everything we do from the outside, like changing the logo, how we look, how we're perceived - that's a big part. How our players are treated, making sure that they're all taken care of.

Q: What are you most excited about in 2012?

Playing. I want to play more, I want to win a championship again. As a player, I'd like to contribute a bit more than I was able to last year. From the coaching side, just to continue to gain experience, continue to learn and help the younger guys become better players. In the office, the ultimate goal is to find an owner for the team. Trying to build this club up internally, so that we can become more attractive for an owner.

Q: Anything else you really want to promote?

A: The event on Thursday night - we're doing a Shine On documentary screening plus the jersey launch on Thursday night at Brit's. ... We're doing something pretty cool with the uniforms for this year. I'm going to say it's probably never been done before.

Q: I didn't know there was really that much room for jersey innovation left out there.

A: There's not. But fortunately we don't have like MLS or a league that says, here's your numbers, here's your letters, and stuff like that. The creativity part comes in. I'm allowed to design the back of the shirt however I want. I start with the Admiral shirt and I sit down here with some of the designers at Planet Soccer, and we come up with something. It's all about the details for me. The little details are important to me. On Thursday we'll see. We've tried something - I think it'll be a big hit. We're coining this as the "Year of the Fan", so that will show a little bit in our jerseys as well.

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