When Woodbury native Eric Miller got the word a few weeks ago that he was swapping the Colorado Rapids for his hometown Minnesota United, it did not take him long to text a new teammate and an old friend.
“He told me right away,” Brent Kallman said. “I think I knew before most people.”
The two defenders have had a way of finding each other throughout their careers. The trade last month that brought Miller to MNUFC was a culmination of sorts of an on- and off-field relationship that dates back to their playing days together at both Creighton University and Woodbury High School.
Miller made Woodbury’s varsity squad in 2007 as a freshman. At the time, ninth graders were housed at the district’s junior high schools, which did not let out until 3:00 p.m. At 15 years old, Miller was left to find a way to the Royals’ 3:30 p.m. training sessions. Kallman, then a junior, lived nearby and offered to drive Miller to and from practice.
Miller admitted he has long-admired Kallman’s work ethic and competitive spirit, and those daily 20-minute car rides soon became a forum for him to pick his brain.
“When you’re 15 and someone else is 17, they’re kind of your role model,” Miller said. “Brent has been a huge mentor for me. For a while now I have been following in his footsteps. It was nice to get closer with him and chat about stuff in the car. He has always been a good guy to talk to and hash stuff out with.”
Through Kallman, Miller met his fiancé Kassey Kallman — a four-year soccer standout at Florida State, former NWSL and United States U20 player and Brent’s sister. The two have been together since high school and will be married over the offseason in St. Paul. Kassey left the NWSL to move to Denver with Eric and now, after years away, they are excited to spend the build-up to the wedding surrounded by family on both sides — comprising an ever-expanding Kallman clan that includes Brent and Kassey’s 10 nieces and nephews all under the age of five.
“I was really happy because I knew it meant my sister and Eric would get to come home,” Kallman said of the trade. “My sister loves to be around our nieces and nephews. That was huge for them. They are so happy to be home and be around the family.”
Both personally and professionally, Miller has had no trouble assimilating to life as a Loon. In that regard, MNUFC was probably the best possible team for him to be dealt to. Miller and Kassey are staying with Kallman’s parents while they hunt for their own place, and Miller was welcomed into the locker room by a host of familiar faces. Even as an opposing player he followed Minnesota United matches and he spent this past offseason playing pick-up games at the National Sports Center with Kallman, midfielder Ethan Finlay — another former Creighton teammate — midfielder Miguel Ibarra, forward Christian Ramirez and others.
Soccer-wise, Miller has stepped directly into the starting XI as a right back. The former Minnesota Mr. Soccer is a steady and accountable defender and a vocal leader who takes charge of organizing his teammates on the backline. After not featuring for Colorado since last October, he has started three of four matches for MNUFC since the trade and is relishing the opportunity to prove himself.
“For me to have the opportunity to play a lot of minutes here and show what I can do is huge,” Miller said. “That was not happening in Colorado, so the opportunity to come here and have a coach and front office that believe in me has been great.
“I always wanted to come back here and play at some point,” he added. “I am super excited to be a part of this team, which is going in a good direction.”
By all accounts, there is no place like home.