My project-2

For an MLS organization still in the early stages of building its homegrown talent pipeline, Devin Padelford is the kind of prospect you hope to find. A Maplewood-native. A Woodbury graduate. Not to mention, an Allianz Field concessions vet. From the Minnesotan-perspective, Padelford more than meets the standard to be referred to as “one of us.” But, the game of soccer is the world’s game, and young talent can be found at every corner of the globe. And, for a team looking to consistently compete at the highest level, it takes a lot more than simply being “from here” to earn a place on the Loons’ roster.

In speaking with Devin, you quickly realize that while he has a great deal of love for his home state, he’s not the type of player that’s going to rely on his “hometown hero” status to succeed within the Loons organization. Instead, the 20-year old is driven to put in the work that earns him more time on the pitch. For Padelford, that means being ready at a day’s notice as to whether he will spend the weekend perfecting his craft with MNUFC or MNUFC2. 

“My weekends are definitely different…like, this weekend…am I going to New York on Sunday, or Kansas City on Saturday? So, you normally don’t really know until a couple days before finalizing rosters. So, you kinda play this waiting game to see what happens. But, either way, I look at it as having an opportunity wherever I’m at, so, as long as you stay positive about it and tell yourself, ‘I’m going here, but I’m going to make a difference…’ I just try to remember to let my family know that I’m going to be here or there for a couple days, they get it…and at the end of the day, I get to go out and play the game I love.”

And, when it comes to the game he loves, Padelford’s hard work has continued taking his abilities to a new level. But, ability alone can’t outweigh the trust a young player must earn from their “colleagues” to prove their dependability at the highest level. For Padelford, the team’s belief in him came to the surface when he made his first-team MLS debut against Toronto FC this past June. After putting in a quality shift after being subbed on in the 68th minute of his debut, he would only enhance the first-team’s belief in him when making his next appearance at Allianz Field against Austin FC on July 8. While the team result wasn’t ideal, Padelford would give the fans a reason to celebrate when heading in his first MLS goal at the senior level. To say it was an unforgettable moment would be an incredibly huge understatement. 

“It was a little bittersweet because we were down but, at the same time it was like…holy cow! Just unbelievable. My parents were there and just kept saying, ‘It was insane!’ And, just to see my family so happy for me at that moment…just unreal.” 

Having been in the press box that night, there’s no doubt Devin Padelford earned the biggest pop of the night from the home crowd. But, the young defender certainly isn’t one to let one big moment of success spoil him, either. In his time with the Loons organization, Padelford has been quick to show his gratitude and give credit to those players that have served as mentors to him and advanced his development as a player. 

“Everyone on the backline, really…but Boxy, for sure. Guys like BK (Brent Kallman)...both great locker room guys that help you out with all the day-to-day stuff. From a positional standpoint on the outside is Zarek (Valentin). He’s been really influential this year, and he’s really great with letting you know and picking you up and just those little things you pick from playing in the league as long as he has. He’s a great person to go to if I need anything.”

The kind of leadership that players the likes of Boxy, Kallman and Valentin can impart on a young talent like Padelford is incredibly valuable. And, the education he’s gotten under their tutelage has shone through in 2023, a promising sign for one of the Loons’ most promising young talents. For a unit that has been looking to integrate a youth movement as part of their defensive equation, Devin Padelford isn’t wasting any opportunity to show that he plans on being part of that foundation for years to come.