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New player Pablo Campos, shown in white last season in the middle (header), of the Minnesota Stars FC.

Minnesota Stars FC, Submitted photo

Minnesota Stars FC land past two NASL MVPs

  • Article by: DAVID La VAQUE
  • Star Tribune
  • January 22, 2013 - 9:32 PM

You might have heard about the local professional sports franchise that landed two major free agents.

But the Wild was not alone in securing a talent bonanza. The Minnesota Stars FC announced Wednesday the signing of the past two North American Soccer League most valuable players, high-scoring forwards Etienne Barbara and Pablo Campos, to three-year contracts. Terms were not disclosed.

"In my time with second-division soccer, I can't remember a bigger move than what's happening here," Stars CEO Djorn Buchholz said.

The signings also indicate the franchise, on the cusp of folding last fall, has shifted hard toward drawing more fans.

Owned by the NASL for two seasons, the Stars prepared for the championship series in late October with their future in doubt. League officials tabled a vote on whether to fund the team in 2013 as ownership talks intensified with wealthy Twin Cities businessman William McGuire.

Named the Stars owner two weeks after the season ended, McGuire hopes to raise the team's profile among fans and top players alike.

"The owner really wants a good product for the community to enjoy," Campos said. "If we do the right things, it's going to be a good year. I'm excited."

The Stars, league champions in 2011 and runners-up in 2012, sought more offense after finishing with 30 goals in 2011 and tying for fifth with 34 goals last season. Coach Manny Lagos contacted both players in hopes of recapturing their scoring touch as a tandem.

As Carolina teammates in 2011, Barbara and Campos combined for 35 goals. Barbara's 20 goals earned him MVP honors. Barbara moved up to Major League Soccer last season while Campos joined San Antonio, led the NASL with 21 goals, and was voted the league's best player.

"I always liked Manny and the coaches for the way they kept Minnesota competitive," Barbara said. "I like playing on grass and Pablo and I had success together."

Buchholz said the signings, intended to ignite fan interest, reflected an increase in the team's player budget from last in the league to "in the range of most teams." The Stars ranked fifth in attendance in the eight-team league last year, drawing an average of 2,796 fans.

The Stars also signed free agent Daryl Sattler. He was the NASL's stingiest goalkeeper last season when he played for San Antonio.

"I think we've created a winning atmosphere here that players want to be a part of," Buchholz said.

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