March 14, 2011 - North American Soccer League (NASL) - Minnesota United FC
BLAINE, Minn. (March 14, 2011) - Less than two months after hanging up his gloves and walking away from the game, Joe Warren has had a change of heart on retirement and returned to the NSC Minnesota Stars for the 2011 season. The goalkeeper rejoined the team Monday morning as it opened training camp.
Warren announced his retirement January 19, seemingly closing the books on a 12-year career played entirely for Minnesota clubs. Warren retired for the first time in 2007 as the Minnesota Thunder's longest-tenured player, but returned for the Stars' inaugural season in 2010 after his employer, the National Sports Center, picked up the reins of professional soccer after the dissolution of the Thunder. Warren was a major contributor for the Stars as they finished seventh out of 12 teams in the United States Soccer Federation Division 2 Pro League and qualified for the playoffs.
Warren came into the 2010 season planning to play only one more season, but he said in January the success on the field and the outstanding season he had - Warren posted a record of 10-8-4 with a 0.99 goals-against average - made the decision difficult.
"Manny [Lagos] called me and asked if I'd had any second thoughts, and I mentioned I'd just seen Devin [Del Do] and Danny [Wasson] after they got back into town," Warren said between training sessions Monday. "It made me realize I'm missing this time of year, the prep time and getting to know new people as a team comes together."
Lagos said Monday morning that the ability to still compete at a high level can make the decision to leave the game even more difficult. He and Warren talked about the emotional connection to the game as well as reflecting on 2010, which saw Warren lead his younger teammates to the playoffs after assuming the No. 1 goalkeeping post after Louis Crayton's season-ending knee injury on opening day.
"Joe and I have a great relationship, and I can sit down and talk to him about soccer. I called Joe and we talked about whether the drive was still there, and I felt like Joe could still bring a lot to the team," Lagos said. "His presence here means a lot, not just on the field and in goal, but his leadership and the example he sets in training for how to be a professional."
Despite the ability and desire still being there, Warren said family commitments still made the decision complicated. Warren and his wife welcomed their second daughter last season, and Warren retired looking forward to spending his days off with his children, who he brought to the National Sports Center several times during the team's optional preseason workouts. Lagos said he was happy to help make the transition back into a hectic preseason schedule as smooth as possible for his veteran goalkeeper.
"The decision to play meant altering our home life a little bit in terms of sending the kids to day care," Warren explained. "Ultimately, though, we decided I'm not going to be young forever, so I should go for it."
Unlike last season, Warren enters 2011 as the team's likely starter and without the rust of an extended layoff. Getting up to game speed will be easier, making it possible to set loftier goals.
"There was a lot of ground to make up last year. This year, I think I can get a lot more out of the season, and as a team we're ready to build on what's in place and are excited to see the new faces and how they'll fit in here," Warren said.