Mon. Dec 11th, 2023

Image courtesy of Minnesota Aurora FC

Minnesota Aurora FC have been busy this off-season. As I previously wrote, Aurora wanted to hire new staff that will allow the nine co-founders to wear fewer hats and enjoy game day more.

New Executive!

On March 8, MN Aurora FC announced the hiring of Jessica Poole as their Chief Operating Officer (COO). Poole comes to the MN soccer club from Chicago State University where she served as Deputy Athletic Director (AD) and COO for a year after working as their Executive Senior Associate Athletic Director for two years. As Chicago State’s Deputy AD and COO, Poole oversaw a plethora of areas for the Chicago State athletics department: business operations, human resources, DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), facilities, events, campus engagement, and capital engagement.

“I am thrilled to be joining Minnesota Aurora to help build out the vision of the Founders. It is a huge honor and responsibility to be joining the club in this capacity and to work alongside the Board, front office staff, and community owners to live the community mission of Minnesota Aurora. What the club has accomplished in a short time is nothing short of impressive, and I look forward to continued momentum and success as we grow the organization.”

Jessica Poole – Chief Operating Officer

After graduating from University of Missouri in 2005 with a Journalism degree, Jessica Poole worked in Sports Information / Media Relations / Communications positions at UNC Greensboro, University of Michigan, Dartmouth, Ole Miss, and Vanderbilt. In 2018, she moved to Florida Atlantic University to become their Senior Associate Athletic Director in charge of External Relations.

In addition, Poole is an executive leader in both the Black College Sports Information Directors Association (BCSIDA) and the College Sports Communicators. After serving the College Sports Communicators as vice president and chair of diversity and inclusion, Poole became the President for the 2022-23 academic year. She is the first black woman to lead the organization.

I caught up with Aurora President Andrea Yoch to ask her a few questions on Jessica Poole.

MJ: What made Jessica Poole stand out from the rest of the candidates?

AY: Jessica’s business experience managing many teams in a college environment is what truly made her stand out. As we have grown extremely quickly, we need to make sure the business of the team is strong and that our community owners continue to feel good about how we are operating the team. Jessica aligns with our values and is a tremendous leader in sports.

MJ: What else do you want Sota Soccer readers to know about Jessica Poole?

AY: She’s making a big commitment moving to Minnesota with her young son. We want everyone to welcome her and make her feel great about her decision. She already has friends in the market and is very excited to become one of us. 

MJ: Any news on the CEO hunt?

AY: We pivoted to a COO position. No new hires planned at the executive level until we get through the season and Jessica can help us assess our priorities for additional people.

New Board Members

Andrea Yoch will continue to serve as team President and has recently been named as the Chair of the MN Aurora board. Also new for 2023, MN Aurora FC added two board members from their 3081 community owners. In November 2022, the club announced that the community owners voted for Jamie Becker-Finn and Mai-Anh Tran to represent them on the Aurora board.

Since 2017, Jamie Becker-Finn has represented MN House District 40B (formerly 42B) and currently serves as Chair of the House Judiciary Committee. From the Aurora press release, “Her policy work is focused on lifting up voices that are otherwise not heard and addressing systemic problems with an anti-racist lens.” Becker-Finn is also an attorney and owns Makwa Coffee, an independent coffee shop. Makwa serves two soccer-inspired drinks that this writer and foodie assures are worth the trip to Roseville.

Mai-Anh Tran currently holds the Associate Vice President of Philanthropic Services position at the Saint Paul and Minnesota Foundation. Prior to that foundation, she held the Executive Director positions at The Sanneh Foundation and MENTOR Minnesota. Tran serves on several boards including All Square, Raise the Barr, and the Minnesota Council on Foundations where she co-chairs the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee.

New Merchandise Manager

In Novemeber 2022, Aurora announced the hiring of José Sánchez as their Merchandise Manager. Sánchez went to school in the Dominican Republic and previously worked at a sports shop in Ely, MN.

You can see new Aurora merchandise that Sánchez helped create from beanies to flannels to hoodies here.

New Role for Nicole Lukic

In October of 2022, MN Aurora announced that 2022 head coach Nicole Lukic would be promoted to Sporting Director to be more involved with player scouting and recruitment. Not to worry Aurora fans, Lukic will still be the Head Coach. Those that saw Lukic manage Aurora to an undefeated Heartland Division record and USL W finals run can rest assured Lukic will be back on the sidelines for 2023.

“From the beginning this club has invested in myself as a head coach, in the members of the coaching staff, and most of all our players. I’m thrilled to be able to take on an even greater leadership role in continuing that work.”

Nicole Lukic – Head Coach AND Sporting Director

What does the 2022 MN Aurora Director of Soccer Operations who helped with player recruiting last year have say about this shift?

“Nicole is a builder. We chose Nicole to lead our team because she knows how to create an impactful, creative style of play on the field, but also because she knows how to set a foundation for success that is sustainable. We are so excited to see her expand her role and impact within the club,” said Matt Privratsky.

The MN Aurora FC kickoff their 2023 season at home Wednesday, May 24 in a new Central Conference and Heartland Division. Season Tickets and Individual Game Tickets are on sale now. Who’s excited for year two? Sota Soccer is. Join us!

By Matthew Johnson

Matthew "MJ" Johnson is a freelance writer based in Minneapolis. In 2007, he discovered UEFA Champions League. His complex spreadsheets went from college football bowl season to European club soccer, and his fandom soon followed. In 2011, a friend Wes made the mistake of inviting him to an NSC Minnesota Stars game, where he fell in love with local soccer. Matthew co-hosts The Daves I Know podcast and occasionally guest hosts the MN Fútbol Show. When not playing broomball or watching soccer, he repairs bicycles and sharpens knives for money but fuses cuisines for fun. Follow Matthew on Twitter @mjmattsui

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