Brian Kallman has become accustomed to high-stakes soccer.
From his days spent honing his youth game in Woodbury, to a career spent wowing the crowd at NSC Stadium as a professional player for the Thunder, Stars and now United FC, Kallman’s career runs through Minnesota, but also includes deep ties to Schwan’s USA CUP.
Brian Kallman (l) and brother Brent together Wednesday night
Brian grew up playing soccer in nearby Woodbury, Minnesota and competing in USA CUP, where he developed an appreciation for international soccer.
“We got smoked against Taiwan, we played Russia one year, teams from Japan, Mexico and Canada,” he said. “It was just a really unique experience to see different soccer from around the world and see the game how other countries see it.”
The elder Kallman began his soccer career at age six down in Omaha, Nebraska, before the family moved to Minnesota, where his soccer roots would eventually take hold. Those roots can be traced back to the state’s third professional soccer team during the 90’s, the Minnesota Thunder.
“Being in Woodbury and being the oldest of six kids, we didn’t go to a lot of Thunder games growing up, but the one game that I always came to was during USA CUP,” said Kallman.
As he grew older, that initial brush with the pro game would begin to come full circle.
“I’ve had three coaches since I’ve been in Minnesota: Amos McGee, Don Gramenz and Manny Lagos and at some point in my career I’ve been able to watch all of them play at USA CUP,” he said. “It’s kind of cool just being on the other side of it, now where I’m the professional and playing in front of all these kids.”
Kallman’s path to professional soccer however, was by no means direct.
After high school, Kallman found his way to Jackson University in Florida, before transferring to Creighton University in Omaha.
After playing at Creighton for over a year, Kallman was drafted by the team that he remembered from his childhood: Minnesota Thunder. After a three-year stint with the Stars, Kallman continued his career with the Minnesota United FC, in the North American Soccer League.
Now, as a member of Minnesota United, returning to USA CUP has a professional has a special significance for him. Kallman has maintained an active presence with Woodbury, coaching youth teams in this year’s tournament.
As opening ceremonies got underway Tuesday night, the full impact of that involvement hit home, as Kallman was cheered on by many of the kids that he has helped to coach over the years.
“I’ve been really involved with the Woodbury club, and know most of the kids by name, so I was going around talking to all of them, and I think they know that I’m a professional soccer player when I’m coaching them, but to see me out there doing it, it’s really special,” he said.
Kallman prides himself on his ability to remember the names of his former players, no matter how briefly he knew them, and enjoys watching them take in the USA CUP experience, just as he did more than a decade ago.
“I always try to remember all the kids’ names. By the second day of camp I like to know the kids’ names,” he said.
His connections to the area make it unlikely that Kallman’s soccer career will take him anywhere else. And considering his ties to Minnesota, it’s hard to disagree.
“I don’t want to play anywhere else,” he said. “This is my home; I get to play in front my family and my friends all the time, and my wife and my soon to be son.”
Kallman sees himself continuing his soccer career as a coach, where he hopes to have the same impact that he has had as a player.
“I’m really happy being here and being part of this organization, but down the line I’d like to pursue coaching,” he said. “I’m doing what I love to do; playing and coaching, it doesn’t get any better than this.”
One of those Minnesotan connections is a bit more significant than those of other home-town heroes: his brother Brent.
For his part, the younger Kallman has begun to establish a Minnesota soccer presence all his own. Brent also played in USA CUP, before making his way to his brother’s alma mater in Creighton, before eventually finding his way to Minnesota United.
And just as Blaine has become a significant place for his brother Brian, Brent also has fond memories of USA CUP.
“It’s kind of magical. You don’t really realize when you’re a kid that it’s one of the biggest youth tournaments anywhere,” he said. “So when you’re out there and walking from field to field with different games going on, and there are teams from South America, Europe, Canada. It’s just crazy.”
Brent recalls getting his first, brutal exposure to international soccer at USA CUP, a game that may not have gone quite as planned.
His U11 squad took an 11-1 beating to a team from Mexico, a milestone that is still relevant for the younger Kallman.
“I’ve never taken a beating that bad, and we got absolutely schooled,” he said. Things began to look up however, as his youth soccer career reached its conclusion.
“My U18 year, we won it and played in the championship game here at NSC,” he said. “It’s a really cool atmosphere that you don’t really appreciate when you’re a kid.”
This year, that atmosphere has been upped considerably by the addition of Minnesota United and the Kallman brothers, who will look to continue bringing their unique brand of family soccer to USA CUP athletes for years to come.
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Tag(s): July 17, 2013