Fri. Dec 1st, 2023

Lumsden, playing for the Hayward Wolfpack, plays against the Poskin Jets. Image courtesy of the Superior Wolfpack.

As the 2023 UPSL season approaches, opportunities are being taken up by players across Minnesota and beyond to take to the pitch at a high level this summer. With several new clubs also joining the league this year, those opportunities are finding more and more parts of the Midwest’s player communities than ever before. Amongst those players, comes Malcolm “Mally” Lumsden.

Long time fans of the National Premier Soccer League (NPSL) North may recognize Mally Lumsden as one of the protagonists of the conference’s early years. Lumsden played for Duluth FC in the 2017 and 2018 seasons. After departing Duluth FC, Lumsden continued his college career at St. Scholastica, as well as playing for the Hayward Wolfpack in the 2022 Wisconsin Primary Amateur Soccer League (WPASL) season, ending the year with countless accolades.

So how did the Jamaican striker come to Duluth, leave his mark at multiple colleges and clubs, and eventually find himself at the head of an UPSL team? Sota Soccer spoke to Lumsden about his journey to Minnesota, his time in lower league soccer, and his excitement to rejoin the scene as he plays for Superior City FC in 2023.

Lumsden grew up in Kingston, the capital of Jamaica. He attended the secondary school, equivalent to American high school, Kingston College. Coming from an athletically-minded family, Lumsden was involved with football from the start.

“Like any other kid, I’ve played football for as long as I can remember. I played a number of sports growing up, that was my parents. My parents were always athletic. So, they found that finding a balance between school and sports was something that was necessary… The only things I ever found that I really liked and stuck to was soccer, basketball, and track.”

While he made his name in the northland as a striker, Lumsden started as a defender. As his secondary school years continued, he decided that his plans might not be as expected.

“From a younger age through high school I played defense. I played centerback, I played right back. I wasn’t really given the opportunity to go forward and express myself. I played all through primary high school. My senior year, [I thought], I want to play, but I don’t want to play in Jamaica. I could go to college and still play the highest professional league in Jamaica, but I was like, that’s not what I want to do. I want to go abroad and play soccer abroad.”

The Jamaican top tier, called the National Premier League, is a regional power in the context of the Carribbean, but has struggled to compete with the greater CONCACAF powers. Some of its notable clubs include Portmore United, Waterhouse, and Arnett Gardens.

Lumsden amongst the Duluth FC squad as they enter Keyworth Stadium to play Detroit City in the 2017 NPSL playoffs. Courtesy of Alex Ganeev and Duluth FC.

“I didn’t tell anybody really, I just didn’t apply to any of the colleges back home. My parents were getting phone calls about other kids getting accepted to schools and [my mom] would ask what’s going on with you and what are the applications saying… My mom was mad, and she had all the right because I was about 18, 19 and I was like, yeah I’m not going to college back home. I wasn’t making any money either to be like, I can go live by myself. My dad, on the other hand, was like, let’s see what happens.”

Lumsden’s journey would eventually take him to the Duluth community college Lake Superior College, where a still-young men’s soccer program was being coached by Jeff Lightfoot. Lumsden was helped along by Kimani Dallas, a fellow Jamaican player who had already been recruited onto the team.

“I cut up a Youtube video of all the videos I could gather from high school… Funny enough, the other Jamaican that played with me at LSC, he was seen first by [Head Coach Jeff Lightfoot] at the time. Coach Lightfoot was like, hey do you know anyone else that you’d want to come with, split rooms with, make life a little cheaper… My name was the first one to be called… He was like, hey listen, it’s the cheapest way to start college and it’s also guaranteed play time. I was like, well that’s perfect. I played right back at the time and Dallas played left back at the time, so there wasn’t really much to think about.”

The transition had its challenges, but Lumsden and his fellow internationals at LSC learned on the job. The Superior City forward did note that the transition to the United States was challenging at first due to the way defending was refereed.

“The difference I think between US soccer and Jamaican soccer at the time, for me especially playing defense, was the physicality of the game. When I played defense, right back or center back, I’m winning the ball and I’m letting you know I’m there early. I had to get accustomed to toning down the challenges that I was making.”

That transition was replaced by another one when Lumsden began to make his name as a striker following a series of red cards and injuries which forced him to briefly move up to the forward line. The change of position stuck and Lumsden has played as a forward since then.

After making an impact in Duluth on the collegiate level, Lumsden drew the attention of Duluth FC. The BlueGreens were still a newer club at the time, having entered serious league play via the American Premier League in 2016. Duluth FC provided Lumsden a chance to both develop and show his skills on a state-wide stage.

Lumsden was there as Duluth FC won the first North title in 2017, and embarked on a journey to Michigan to play Detroit City FC in the regional tournament. Duluth lost that game 2-5. Lumsden returned for 2018. The former BlueGreen explained that he got to the team through an early connection with its head coach, Kyle Bakas. Bakas was on the sideline when Duluth won that first NPSL North title in 2017.

“I was very fortunate when I came here, because playing the position I played, I had to be able to read the game a lot and anticipate what’s coming next. When I first got here, the assistant coach at LSC was Kyle Bakas… I didn’t really know much about what Duluth FC was at the time, I didn’t know much about summer soccer. I was planning, when school was over, to go home, to see my parents.”

Recalling his years with the team joyfully, Lumsden particularly remembers that night in Detroit, playing Detroit City in the NPSL playoffs.

“It was amazing to say the least. High school soccer in Jamaica is loud, it’s different, but when you come here, we took a trip down to Detroit and played infront of 7,000 people. I’d never done that before… It was loud, they were singing, they were chanting, there was smoke, and the atmosphere was really good to play soccer. Coach Bakas was yelling at me and I was like, ‘Coach, I cannot hear what you’re saying.’”

Lumsden added that he benefited from playing with the team’s veteran players, some of whom were nearing graduation from college or had already graduated, playing years of semi-professional and high level amateur football along the way.

“[I learned from] playing with guys that were older than me, seeing how they handle situations, how they handled adversity at times. They also helped me with how to handle different situations differently than how I used to.”

Lumsden scored six goals for Duluth in 2017, tying for their second-to-top goalscorer with Charlie Crane, both behind the perennial Kyle Farrar. A quieter 2018 season saw Lumsden make fewer appearances and score one goal, eventually ending his time with the club at seven goals. That tally leaves him tied for seventh all-time scorer at the club with Sam Thornton.

Lumsden playing for St. Scholastica against St. Thomas before the latters move to the Summit League. Photo courtesy of the College of St. Scholastica.

Between his time at Duluth FC and the Hayward Wolfpack, Lumsden remained active in college soccer, playing for the College of Saint Scholastica in 2018 and 2019. Lumsden had eight goals and three assists for CSS in 2018. He then added six goals and one assist for CSS in 2019. CSS finished second and made the UMAC playoffs in both of Lumsden’s seasons there, but the University of Wisconsin Superior won the UMAC tournament on both occasions.

Lumsden returned to the club scene in 2022 with the Hayward Wolfpack in the WPASL, serving as the club’s new primary striker as they looked to compete with the likes of Bateaux FC and Lobos, and Union Eau Claire for the league title.

The former Saints forward is happy with what he achieved for the Wolfpack in 2022, but acknowledges that the team had more it could have achieved in the league.

“I accomplished everything I set out to accomplish on a personal level, scoring the goals that I wanted to, getting those accolades. On a team level, I think we fell short just based on the fact that we didn’t handle the adversity or the early success well. We lost some games, dropped some points that we weren’t supposed to drop.”

He also noted the support he received from the Wolkfpack organization throughout the process.

“This organization has fully backed me, so knowing that I have the support from the top all the way down to the coaching staff, to the players, it kind of helps you to play with a little less pressure… I also had a lot of help from the other players as well, those guys really pushed me to get to where I wanted to get to.”

Lumsden had a field day in the WPASL, scoring 24 goals and making two assists in just eight games for the Hayward Wolfpack. Along the way, he won League MVP, was the Golden Boot winner, and was voted Forward of the Year.

Now, after showing his chops in the WPASL, Lumsden is heading back to the national pre-professional landscape, joining Superior City FC in their debut season in the UPSL Midwest-West Premier Division.

Lumsden’s goals for 2023 are ambitious but clear, with success on the mind. The Jamaican frontman wants to continue his dominant form from 2022 and intends to compete and earn the same praise he got in the WPASL, and at times in the NPSL, in the UPSL.

“I told [the club], I want to be again, in those all-conference, all those accolades. I want to be top of the scoring charts again. Those personal goals, I’ve told them I want those again. On top of that, as a team, I want the team to be successful. The team goals obviously come before my personal goals, but they go hand in hand in my view, because if I do my job, then the team will be successful.”

Lumsden noted that for him, and the club, the UPSL isn’t about participation. Instead, it’s about being competitive and looking for new challenges that the club can surpass.

“People need to understand we aren’t coming into the UPSL to just be another team and just participate. We’re trying to go for, first year, first win. At the end of the season, we want to be on top. We’re the new team, so we’re an underdog team, but we’re going to come and fight everyday because we want to be at the top of the table when the season’s over.”

The striker added that in his early conversations with Wolfpack and Superior City FC president Kaden Bergman, the importance of taking on this fight in the right way and building the right team to deal with the challenges of the UPSL was discussed.

“I always think of myself as a leader. So, when Kaden came to me with this project and said, this is where we want to take the team next year, I said I’m full on ready and I’ll be there. But, we’ve got to make sure that we’ve got to make sure we get the right pieces to make sure the team understands we aren’t just coming there to sit around and travel and just play. We want to be in the conversation at the end of the season and see how far we can go.”

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