Brent Kallman steps again to the fore (or back) for Minnesota United

The thing about Brent Kallman is that Minnesota used to have a lot of guys like Brent Kallman, and no, I don’t mean “guys named Kallman.” Although that is part of the story too, part of the reason why Brent Kallman is a link to Minnesota soccer’s past.

There is the obvious, of course. Of all of the guys who played for the NASL editions of Minnesota United FC, Kallman is the last one still here. Ibson, Christian Ramirez, Miguel Ibarra, Justin Davis, Kevin Venegas, Ish Jome; they all played in MLS, but only Kallman is still wearing blue and black.

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He is a survivor. He wasn’t supposed to be a mainstay in MLS, but after making 29 starts in the club’s final NASL season, he made 23 and 22 in the first two years for United, after experiments like “Vadim Demidov: MLS Defender” and “Francisco Calvo: MLS Center Back” went horrendously wrong.

By 2020, he was on loan to El Paso, seemingly on his way out of MLS. Guys who are about to turn 30 don’t go to the USL and then easily come back. And yet by the end of the year, he was in the Loons’ lineup again; then in 2021, he made 13 starts and 20 appearances. This season, he started the first five games of the year, then in the US Open Cup, and when Michael Boxall was suspended for yellow card accumulation.

Just being a veteran, and an NASL veteran, is not the only reason he’s a link to the past, though. Back in the lower-division days, Minnesota used to have a lot of guys in his mold, guys who’d had reasonable success in college soccer and were looking to keep their careers going even though they weren’t the type of high-profile players that get invited to youth national teams and the MLS combine.

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Kallman played for a very good Creighton team, but ended his college career pretty short on individual honors; he made the all-freshman team, but as a senior, wasn’t all-conference or All-American. (The plaudits were reserved for his teammate Eric Miller, who’d later play for the Loons, and also become Kallman’s brother-in-law.)

Even so, it was a natural fit for him to sign with Minnesota on a make-good contract. The newly-renamed Loons needed defensive depth, and besides, his name was “Kallman.” His older brother Brian was already on the team, and if you want to talk about a link to the past, there you go; Kallman the elder played for the Thunder, the Stars, and United, making what FBRef.com says was 127 appearances over nine seasons.

The two overlapped with the Loons from 2013-15, the peak of Kallmans; this is when Krystle was coaching the Gophers and when Kassey was starring for Florida State and USA youth teams, a couple of years after Kylie had starred for the Gophers. All told, this is the 17th year in a row that at least one Kallman has been playing for a Minnesota soccer team.

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Apart from his family of origin though, there’s also the matter of him simply being a local. One of the very cool things about soccer has always been how international the game is. Against Nashville, three weeks ago, Minnesota played 13 players, none of whom are American (give or take how you wish to count Jonathan González). Their regular starting eleven includes players from four different continents. It’s a lineup for geography buffs, for vexillophiles – and then there is Kallman, the dude from Woodbury.

I don’t think it’s wrong to enjoy that, too, just like it’s not wrong to root a little harder for Adam Thielen or Alex Goligoski or Caleb Thielbar, just because he is One Of Us. Minnesota is a state that does not yet have a huge tradition of producing soccer talent. Sota Soccer readers can probably name most of the MLS or USWNT players from Minnesota off the tops of their heads. Parochial or not, there’s something special about having a hard-working guy from the eastern suburbs on the team, a connection to the local soccer scene that the Loons haven’t always been famous for.

And now, it’s back into the fire for Kallman, into a defense that’s used five different left backs since preseason (Chase Gasper, Bakaye Dibassy, DJ Taylor, Oniel Fisher, Kemar Lawrence) and five different right backs (Romain Métanire, Fisher, Hassani Dotson, Taylor, Alan Benítez), but has mostly stuck with the same center backs.

As always, Kallman is both introspective and honest with where he’s at. “I’m not in my best form right now. I’m not. I felt it in the game on the weekend,” he said earlier this week, even before Minnesota’s 3-0 loss to Real Salt Lake. “As much as you train, it’s different when you don’t play. My focus now is on playing myself into that form. It comes with the game time.”

Kallman’s inclusion changes things for Minnesota, in that they’ll probably need to dial back on the willingness to commit seven or eight players into an all-out attack, something the Loons mostly do at home. The defender himself says that it’s not the best spot for him. “I can do it,” he said, “but I don’t want to get into a game that’s a track meet.”

Adrian Heath has been adamant that he’s sticking with the 31-year-old, as the Loons begin their final playoff run. With six games to go in the season, plus the potential of playoffs, Minnesota’s future may partially depend on its past – with, as always, Kallman as the common thread.

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