For the second-straight season, Minnesota United FC have an up-and-coming academy prospect competing in the MLS NEXT All-Star game. In 2022, it was fullback Carlos Leatherman. This time around, it’s Apple Valley, MN native Kage Romanshyn.
Romanshyn, who grew up playing in the St. Croix soccer system, is a member of the Loons U-19 side who regularly trains and competes with their MLS NEXT Pro side MNUFC2. The 18-year old has logged 225 minutes across six appearances for the Twos this season, including a brilliant assist in their first match of the campaign.
MNUFC2 head coach Cameron Knowles told SotaSoccer.com that “it’s incredibly exciting” to see the youth players in the Loons system get recognized for opportunities like this in back-to-back years.
“It’s exciting for us as a club to be able to be represented at an event like that [MLS NEXT All-Star game] and Kage will do us all proud – no doubt – he’s a good player and a great kid.”
Romanshyn is a player Knowles hopes to see develop further this season and eventually work his way into consistent professional soccer at the MLS NEXT Pro level.
“He’s had a taste of playing professional games this year and we hope to continue to have him around us this year, and when he’s not, he’ll be training with the U-19’s and getting games with them,” Knowles said. “It’s about him continuing to elevate his game week-in and week-out.”
Knowles believes the “most important step” for the 18-year old is to be ready for the next step, whatever it may be, as “circumstances provide you with an opportunity.”
For now, though, Romanshyn is living in the moment ahead of the biggest opportunity presented to him in his footballing career. The 18-year old struggled to find a word beyond “excited” when asked about the opportunity.
“I’m just kind of honored” Romanshyn told SotaSoccer.com “ I’m just really excited that I get to represent my club on a big stage… I’m just yeah, I’m really excited man.”
Romanshyn feels that his call-up to the MLS NEXT All-Star game is a reward for all of the hard work he has put in to get to where he is now within the MNUFC system, crediting the coaching staff and specifically Knowles for pushing him to elevate his game week-in and week-out.
“He’s really helped me [Knowles], but he hasn’t made it easy, which at the beginning was kind of tough because like, I was used to like playing with the academy and kind of I felt like physically I was more aggressive [than the other U-19 players], but now at this level, you kind of get pushed around a lot more but you just have to deal with it and continue to work and play to their level.”
The Loons’ academy prospect plays in the central midfield as an “8,” but Romanshyn thinks he has the attributes to play across all three midfield positions whether it be in an attacking or defensive role.
“I’d say I’m very technical and I think my best attribute would be finding that final pass but then defensively, I think I’m very aggressive… but I’d say more of an eight just because I really like going forward and tracking back to help.”
Romanshyn, who graduated High School this past Spring, is taking a gap-year instead of heading straight to college like his fellow classmates. His hope is that, by doing so, he can figure out what his career path looks like while taking his game to “the next level.”
Looking back at how he’s achieved the level he has at his age, he credits the MNUFC academy system, who provided him with “consistency.”
“Consistency has been a big thing because at the Academy, every day, they tell you that you have to bring it… you have to show it. All the coaches have been really helpful, working to guide me onto this pathway to the first team.”
Romanshyn’s rise in 2023 can also be attributed to his teammates on MNUFC2, notably midfielders Molik Jesse Khan and Rory O’Driscoll, who he said he has learned a “ton” from this campaign.
“Honestly, it’s awesome, because I feel like I learned so much from them [O’Driscoll and Khan] and I feel like we’re almost getting better at every training kind of working hard against each other… but I kind of look up to everyone,” Romanshyn said. “I feel like we have such a good team and such good camaraderie around the team that I feel like everyone is just kind of a good role model.”
More than anybody, though, Romanshyn looks up to an MLS player in particular in Nashville SC’s Hany Mukhtar, adding that he studies his tape and tries to replicate the German’s play himself. Mukhtar, who is set to compete in the MLS All-Star game against English side Arsenal FC Wednesday evening, will be coached by an individual who inspired Romanshyn to pursue his footballing dreams from the start: English legend and DC United head coach Wayne Rooney.”
“I’m a huge Manchester United fan and just the chance to even be in the same place as Rooney is crazy to me. I’ve watched him my entire life,” Romanshyn said.
The 18-year old said that on top of playing in the match Wednesday afternoon, he hopes to be able to speak to Rooney during his time in the nation’s capital while impressing all of the personnel there watching.
What’s next for Romanshyn now you might ask? It’s consistent minutes at the MLS NEXT Pro level and a continued pursuit towards his professional dream.
Romanshyn would be eligible for a Homegrown contract with the Loons, but that conversation hasn’t happened yet per the 18-year old. That contract, however, is a goal for the Apple Valley, MN native as he grows into the MNUFC2 system under Knowles and his technical staff.
How to watch Romanshyn in action:
The match will be streamed LIVE on tik tok from the MLS NEXT account (@mlsnext) at 10:30 am ET from the Glenn Warner Soccer Facility at the Naval Academy. The format is an East vs West roster and admission is FREE for all spectators who are in the DC area.