After Minnesota United’s preseason competition for starting spots left defender Brent Kallman on the outside looking in, the Woodbury native bided his time waiting for a rare second chance to make a first impression — one that finally came three weeks ago.
With Francisco Calvo in Russia representing Costa Rica at the 2018 FIFA World Cup, Kallman has seamlessly slotted in at center back in his absence. It is an opportunity that Kallman does not take lightly because he has had the dates circled on his calendar for months.
“It is what I was working for,” Kallman said. “I always knew this World Cup break was coming, so it is what I have been preparing for these last couple of months. I have been waiting for it, I’ve been ready, I’ve been working for this moment and I am ready to take advantage of it.”
MNUFC Head Coach Adrian Heath lauded Kallman’s recent play and the partnership he has formed with Michael Boxall over the last three weeks. To him, Kallman especially stood out during the U.S. Open Cup match against FC Cincinnati. Not only did he help the Loons keep a clean sheet over 120 minutes, but he also showed off his penalty kick aptitude complete with a memorable Connor McGregor-inspired celebration.
“He has been excellent,” Heath said. “The game in Cincinnati was the first time he looked like the Brent Kallman of last year, where I thought he was outstanding for us at times.”
Prior to the World Cup, Kallman’s only start this season was back on March 24 at New York Red Bulls while Calvo and Boxall were on international duty. Now he has started three straight matches ahead of an expected fourth Saturday night in Colorado and is re-gaining the form that had some proclaiming him a “north star in the making” just last season.
For Kallman, the key has been taking care of the little things that made him successful in 2017 when he started 23 matches for the Loons – that means making sure his positioning is sound, reading opponents on the ball well, staying calm on the ball and reacting well to whatever the other team gives the no nonsense defender.
“I try not to overcomplicate the game and just keep things really simple,” Kallman said.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR: QUINTERO’S INFLUENCE
The goals may not be coming for MNUFC right now, but Heath is confident the dam is ready to break if the team’s recent attacking play continues — especially if midfielder Darwin Quintero continues to exert his influence on matches.
Minnesota was held scoreless by Houston in a frustrating U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 match on Monday, but Heath was happy with the Loons’ play between the boxes, ball movement and their possession in certain areas which led to numerous chances. Quintero was the driving force behind nearly all of those opportunities. The Colombian helped set up his team’s best chances of the night, including close calls for both forward Christian Ramirez and midfielder Rasmus Schuller.
“Darwin was instrumental in nearly all of them,” Heath said. “As we said when Darwin got here, if we can get enough balls to him in the final third we’re confident he will create opportunities not only for himself, but for other people as well. That is what he did the other night.”
The promise was there, but the finish was lacking. But as long as Quintero and MNUFC continue to look dangerous Heath is optimistic about the direction the attack is headed.