We've known Djorn Buchholz since his days as GM of the now-defunct Minnesota Thunder. After leaving for a stint in Austin, Texas, Buchholz is now the CEO of the revamped Minnesota pro soccer team, the NSC Stars. The Stars are in the playoff semifinals of their league, the NASL. They play a two-match, home-and-away, total goal series against top-seeded Carolina starting at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at the National Sports Center in Blaine. Tickets start at $14 for adult and $8 for youth. Here are a few questions and answers with Djorn (as well as the most recent video produced on the team, chronicling its playoff victory over Tampa):
RB: First, the important stuff: Beer. Bad news is the beer garden is being torn down (or is already torn down) at NSC Stadium. Good news is Surly is providing free beer for tailgaters Saturday. How did both of those things come to pass?
DB: We were informed just a few short weeks ago by our landlord, the National Sports Center, that the beer garden would be torn down immediately due to potential expansion at the facility. It was a shock to all of us, but I feel confident we will work closely with the NSC to replace it with a beer garden area that is just as good, if not better, for the 2012 season. Upon the news of the beer garden being torn down, Surly Brewing heard about the situation and offered up to our Dark Clouds supporters group free beer for their tailgate before Saturday’s semifinal match. I think it’s a great example of a local company supporting the fans of a local sports franchise. We are grateful to Surly Brewing for their contribution to Saturday’s festivities and we hope it brings out some new fans for playoff soccer. The tailgate will start at 5 p.m. and last up until kickoff at 7:30 p.m.
RB: OK, on to soccer: The Lynx have generated a pretty good buzz in this market as an entertaining/winning option amidst a lot of struggling teams. Are you hoping to catch some of that buzz now that the Stars are in the league semifinals?
DB: We are definitely trying to catch some of the same buzz. We are using more social networking opportunities to spread the word that the Stars are on the path to bringing a championship to Minnesota. It’s hard to get your message across in such a large sports market, but we are expecting a good turnout for Saturday’s game, and an even larger one should we advance to the final. This is the furthest a pro soccer team in Minnesota has gone since 2003 so we know that the soccer community is excited about our playoff run. Now we just need the sports fan to get excited.
RB: The format for the semifinals is a two-match, total-goal series. What is this, the old WCHA? Seriously, though, what kind of challenges does that present in how you prepare for the first leg, which is at home Saturday in Blaine?
DB: I think it’s actually the right format for the playoffs. Each team gets a home game and whoever plays the best over the two games moves on. The challenge it presents really comes in the second game of the series. I believe each team will play their typical style in game one. It’s game two where things can get more challenging and can take a team out of their custom style of play depending on if they are ahead or behind heading into the second game and by how much. If one of the teams is down considerably going into game two, you’re going to see an all or nothing mentality in that match, perhaps even formation changes. I think the team that sticks to their style of play that has made them successful throughout the entire campaign will be the team to move on.
RB: Carolina was the regular-season league champion, but the Stars were undefeated (two wins, two ties) in four meetings this year. Is it a particularly good matchup or was there more to those games than a simple box score would tell me?
DB: The Stars have matched up well with Carolina not just in this season, but also last year posting a 4-1-3 (one loss, three draws) record over the past two years. I just think our guys have a proven track record against Carolina and that gives them confidence heading into every match against them. Last season it was Carolina who knocked the Stars out of the playoffs when it counted and I know that memory is motivation for the team heading into the semifinals this year. There have been a lot of meaningful games played between these two teams the past two years, and Saturday’s will be no different.
RB: What are we talking attendance-wise for this game? I see there is a big youth tournament that weekend at the NSC. Will that boost the gate – and will you keep the free beer crowd a safe distance away from the youngsters?
DB: The numbers indicate that we will have one of our larger crowds of the season for the game Saturday. There is a large youth tournament taking place up here so that will definitely help the numbers and I feel the soccer and sports community is rallying around the team right now. And yes, there is a designated tailgate area located outside of the stadium on the south end of the parking lot. It will be monitored so that only 21+ will be partaking.