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Lawrence Olum returns to Minnesota

May 5, 2018; San Jose, CA, USA; Portland Timbers midfielder Lawrence Olum (13) before the match against the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium. Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

ST. PAUL, Minn. — Minnesota United FC signed Lawrence Olum on Friday. The Kenyan international will be familiar to longtime soccer fans in the Land of 10,000 Lakes, having played for the Minnesota Thunder in 2009.

“It’s a nice story to have another player that’s worked with Adrian for many years, as well as played in this market for us years ago,” said sporting director Manny Lagos. “[Olum] adds a lot of good depth and a veteran leadership to the middle of the field.”

Founded by Manny Lagos’ father, Buzz, in 1990, the Minnesota Thunder went on to turn professional and join what was then known as the USL First Division. Olum played for the Thunder in 2009 — its final year of existence. Financial troubles left the Thunder bankrupt, but staff and players involved launched NSC Minnesota Stars as a founding member of the then-reborn North American Soccer League the following year. That latter iteration would eventually be purchased by Dr. Bill McGuire, be rebranded Minnesota United FC and make its way to MLS.

It’s a wonder more lower-division clubs with MLS aspirations haven’t rostered Olum, with the defensive midfielder having also played for Portland Timbers (2007) and Orlando City (2011) prior to each making the jump from the USL to MLS. Olum played under MNUFC head coach Adrian Heath when the pair were in Orlando in 2011, as well as in Austin the year prior. All the aforementioned isn’t to say Olum lacks MLS experience; The 34-year-old made 146 league appearances over the past seven seasons while turning out for Sporting Kansas City and most-recently Portland.

Adding another footnote to Minnesota soccer history, Olum was the first player to score an MLS goal against MNUFC. His 14th-minute goal for the Timbers opened scoring on what would be a 5-1 route as the Loons lost their league debut in front of an announced crowd of 21,144 at Providence Park on March 3, 2017.

Olum’s addition gives Minnesota cover for 33-year-old No. 6 Osvaldo Alonso. Rookie Hassani Dotson was previously second on the team’s depth chart at defensive midfielder, and made substitute appearances in each of the Loons’ first two games. But with the addition of the veteran Olum, Heath won’t have to place as much weight on the 21-year-old shoulders of Dotson should Alonso be unavailable.

Olum will not require an international roster spot, which is important as MNUFC at present does not have any open.

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