Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
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It's not just new players that are signing on the dotted line with the Minnesota Stars - a few familiar faces are putting pen to paper, as well.
The Stars will announce today that defender Brian Kallman and goalkeeper Matt Van Oekel have signed contract extensions with the team. Salary numbers, as usual for this level of soccer, were not disclosed, but Kallman's extension runs through 2015, while Van Oekel is now signed through 2014.
Kallman, 29, is a graduate of Woodbury HS, and has spent all six years of his professional career with Minnesota. He's been the regular Stars right back for several years, and was second on the team in minutes played last season.
Van Oekel is just 26, and emerged last year as an excellent keeper after the retirement of the ageless Joe Warren. He played all but three games in net for the Stars last year, and has been on trial at DC United this spring. The Washington Post suggested that Van Oekel could be in line for a short-term contract with the team while United backup keeper Joe Willis recovers from a bone bruise, though he'd be there mostly as a third-string emergency keeper.
In addition to the two extensions, defender / assistant coach / jack of all trades Kevin Friedland also signed a one-year contract. The 31-year old has been around these parts even longer than Kallman - he's been in Minnesota since the 2004 season - and though he was technically a free agent, he was always expected to re-sign with the team, especially given his roles on the coaching staff and in the front office.
Friedland's responsibilities this offseason have included attending combines in the offseason to try to unearth talent for the team, and he'll again be a part of the club's coaching staff, but he wants to be a part of the team on the field. He's coming off a year in which he made just a handful of appearances, but did score a goal, his first since the days of the Minnesota Thunder - though that goal was a deflection that rebounded off Friedland twice before rolling into the back of the net.