Minnesota soccer, rebranded

MICHAEL MULLEN | Updated 4/24/2013

Meet the Minnesota United soccer team.

Minnesota United head coach Manny Lagos.
Photo by KYNDELL HARKNESS

Quick! If you act now, someday you can say you were always a fan of Minnesota United FC. The newly renamed pro soccer team is coming off a great but tumultuous season. Here’s what you need to know.

FRESH WOUNDS

Last season, the former Minnesota Stars came short of winning back-to-back NASL championships, losing in a heartbreaking shootout to the Tampa Bay Rowdies.

“There’s a lot of hurt there,” said defender and team captain Kyle Altman, who took one of the unsuccessful shootout attempts. “Hopefully, you learn from that.”

THE DEVIL YOU KNOW

The team played the 2012 season as if it were its last — in fact, it nearly was. At the time, the Stars were owned by the league, which was trying to recruit a local owner.

Eventually an unlikely savior emerged in the form of former UnitedHealth CEO Bill McGuire. McGuire is trying to shake the scoundrel’s reputation he earned after revelations UnitedHealth had been backdating stock options. His infusion of money, which led to the team’s new identity, amounts to a bit of PR rehab.

ALLIED POWERS

Managing to better “It Gets Better,” United became the first professional sports team with a group of signees to the Athlete Ally pledge. By signing it, coach Manny Lagos and a dozen United players have promised to “respect and welcome all persons, regardless of their perceived or actual sexual orientation.”

Lagos, who once played on the U.S. men’s national soccer team, called signing the pledge “exciting” and a big step in the right direction.

HIS ENEMY’S ENEMY

In last year’s semifinal game, Altman took a head butt from the San Antonio Scorpions’ talented, mercurial forward Pablo Campos. Campos was ejected and received a two-game suspension, which he’s serving as a member of his new team … the Minnesota United.

Altman now shrugs off the incident as a mistake Campos made in the heat of the moment. “I’d much rather be playing with [Campos] than against him,” Altman said. For his part, Campos credited the team’s compact, stingy defense — thanks, largely, to Altman — as part of the reason he wanted to play here.

Anything missing, then? Said Campos: “I think we need to score more goals, and play a beautiful game.”

Minnesota United vs. FC Edmonton

When: 2:30 p.m. Sat. Where: Metrodome, 5th St. and Chicago Av. S., Mpls. Tickets: $6-$28. www.mnunitedfc.com.