The oldest player on the Minnesota Stars is making big saves and giving younger players confidence.
Joe Warren looms large in local professional soccer circles as a 6-4, 225-pound goalkeeper you can count on and a teammate you can have a little fun with.
Warren ended a two-year retirement and joined the upstart NSC Minnesota Stars this season. Known as "Papa Joe," the 35-year-old Warren got a good laugh watching a video of younger, smaller teammates dropping one-liners inspired by the cyber-tweaking of action movie star Chuck Norris.
"Superman wears Joe Warren underwear," Andres Arango said. "Joe Warren does his crossword puzzles in pen," Kyle Altman said.
And from South Africa native Two-Boys Gumede: "I am Two-Boys. Joe Warren is Two Men."
But seriously, folks, Warren's exploits this season are no joke. He became the team's starter when Louis Crayton suffered a season-ending injury in the first game. He stopped penalty kicks in three consecutive games. And he hopes to be in goal throughout the upcoming slate of four games in six days.
The grueling stretch starts at 7 p.m. Tuesday as the Kansas City Athletics come to the National Sports Center in Blaine for the first round of the U.S. Open Cup.
When Warren left the game in 2007, he did so as the longest tenured player in the history of the now-defunct Minnesota Thunder. Now, he is the oldest player on the NSC Stars (3-7-1) roster but determined not to show his age.
"I want to play every minute of every game, and I know I can," Warren said. "In my position it's a little bit different than the guys working their butts off running up and down the field. It's actually more mental fatigue than physical."
Of course, Warren is no longer the young man who enjoyed multi-sport stardom at Trinity High in Bloomington and the University of St. Thomas. He listens to his body and sometimes trades practice repetitions for rest.
"I hate to sound like the old guy but I've got an ankle issue and other things I have to be a little bit cautious with," Warren said.
Though the Stars have allowed a league-high 19 goals this season, Warren enjoyed a rare string of success by stopping penalty kicks in three consecutive games.
"That's a feat I've never really seen at any level," coach Manny Lagos said.
Even Warren struggled to explain the latest addition to his legend. He could not recall even diving the right way three times in a season.
"It definitely helps the confidence," Warren said. "I still feel -- it's getting less and less -- but I still feel like I've got something to prove to those guys who are all relatively young compared to me."
Warren said watching the team video made him feel good about his bond with the team. Part of the motivation for coming back was to better enjoy his playing experience, something he could not say about his final years with the Thunder. And he gets to make memories for Veronica, his 3-year-old daughter, who was an infant when Warren retired in 2007.
Defender Chris Clements, who came up with the video concept, said Warren, all kidding aside, has proven himself to teammates.
"He's just a huge guy back there," Clements said. "The keeper is the No. 1 guy you want to be sure of and he gets us going with big saves that give us a lot of confidence."
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