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A Minnesota grown athlete

07/22/2011, 2:46pm CDT
By Tiffany Willits

Goalkeeper Joe Warren talks about his soccer experience in Minnesota

Schwan's USA CUP is a great opportunity for teams throughout the world to come together in a celebration of soccer, and for NSC Minnesota Stars player Joe Warren the tournament has played an important role in his career. After playing soccer professionally in Minnesota for ten years Warren became a part of the National Sports Center (NSC) staff, staying involved with the USA CUP tournament for nearly ten years. 

Warren grew up in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and is one of the few Stars players raised in the state. He attended St. Thomas University in St. Paul where he took part in a variety of sports including track and field, basketball, football and soccer. In 2007 he was inducted into the St. Thomas Athletic Hall of Fame, and after graduating from St. Thomas Warren signed with the Minnesota Thunder, officially beginning his professional career.

Warren was the first choice goalkeeper for the Minnesota Thunder for six out of his ten years of play. He retired at the end of the 2006 season, becoming the longest tenured player in the Thunder's history. After retiring from the team Warren became part of the staff at the National Sports Center where he worked in the operations department.

"The job was a good experience for me," said Warren. "I love sports and was involved in four of them at St. Thomas so as an athlete it was a great environment to be working, between all of the soccer, hockey, baseball and rugby events we had there."

As part of the operations team at the NSC, Warren was given a variety of responsibilities. He began his work with the sports center in 2000 with a part-time job, gaining more responsibilities and a full-time status along the way. Although Warren helped out with an assortment of events throughout his career, the biggest job for him was working USA CUP.

"I was a part of the campus operations as an event manager," said Warren. "We made sure that the campus was set up for whatever events we had going at the time, and the USA CUP was a major event for us because of the amount of time it took to set up and take down."

Working at the USA CUP had its challenges, but for Warren it was a rewarding experience. Warren joined the NSC staff the same year as his boss, Brandon Radeke, and the two staff members worked their way through their first year together. "It was definitely a learning experience," said Warren. "We had a lot of fun but it was hard work too.

Although Warren grew up in Minnesota and his work led him to the USA CUP, he never actually had the chance to play in the tournament. "You'd think that I would've had the chance when I was younger, growing up in Minnesota," said Warren. "But I was more focused on baseball as a youth."

Warren still had very positive things to say about the tournament. "The USA CUP is such a cool tournament in general," said Warren. "It's a great opportunity for the local players to get a chance to play teams from around the world. It's good to have people come to Minnesota and appreciate our hospitality during the beautiful summer time. It's always nice to show off our campus and see the appreciation from everyone for all the hard work put into the tournament."

In 2010, after Warren spent ten years working for the National Sports Center, the NSC Minnesota Stars were formed. The idea of the new team sparked an interest with the previous Minnesota Thunder player and he eventually made the decision to return to the game. Warren signed a contract with the Stars in 2010, returning to professional soccer as the first choice goalkeeper for the team.

"I knew I had a tough decision to make," said Warren. "I was already a few years into my retirement but I decided I still had some passion for the game left in me. I wanted to return to the game and do what I could for professional soccer in Minnesota. It was a tough decision because it was an exceptional job and the people there are great."
At age 36 Warren is the oldest member of the NSC Minnesota Stars team. The combination of his age and status as a father has earned him the nickname 'Papa Joe.'

Warren's decision to come out of retirement for the 2010 season has been great news for the NSC Minnesota Stars. Since returning to the field Warren has made huge strides in the game, playing an important role as a member of the professional team. He was named NASL player of the week twice this year and is one of the top goalkeepers in the league. His accomplishments on the field have earned him a vast amount of respect from both players and coaches alike as he worked hard to have a successful season. 

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Tag(s): July 22, 2011