Sassy Brent Portland

Brent Kallman: Coming Back

On the pitch and in life, Brent Kallman has never been one to shy away from a challenge. As the second-youngest sibling in a family where five of the six children would play Division I soccer and two — including youngest Kassey Kallman — would go on to play in the sport’s highest level in the U.S., Kallman has gotten used to fighting for position and never taking the easy way.

It’s one of the reasons his suspension for using a banned substance last season stung. The defender was quick to acknowledge his fault in choosing to use a product without consulting the training staff that he thought would help him get through a spate of injuries. Once the suspension came down — taking him out of the team’s final four regular season games and first postseason appearance in MLS and the first five of this season — it was a stern reminder that there are no shortcuts. It also forced him to confront and finally get surgery for a nagging hip injury.

“I was in a bit of a dark place for a couple weeks and then there was no time to dwell because I ended up getting surgery in early October on my hip,” Kallman said. “So I was right to work at the facility Monday through Friday all offseason. Since not many people stick around in the offseason, I had all their attention. It was just me and Mason [Toye] up here with Stacey [Hardin], Josh Williams, Josh McAllister, [Hodong] Cho — I had everybody's attention and they were all helping me get back on track. It's gone really well, we're way ahead of schedule and really thankful for all those guys.”

Kallman was far enough ahead of schedule to participate in the team’s preseason training and even get minutes in preseason games against the Portland Timbers at Vancouver Whitecaps at Providence Park. While he will have to once again remove himself from team activities with the start of the regular season, he strongly feels that he’ll be ready when the time comes, now that he’s gotten past that middle ground where things have started to feel normal but you just don’t know.

“I reached out to a couple people that had similar surgeries before I got mine and they gave me a warning about the middle period,” he said. “That's where you get to this frustrating point where you're doing the same things for weeks and maybe you're doing all the same lifts and you're getting stronger, but you still can't run. You're just walking and pulling the sled for weeks and you're just waiting to progress. A lot of people were preaching patience to me in those times especially on the mental side of things. You go through periods where you have both sides where you wish you could be doing more and on the other side where you're like, 'Am I sure I'm ready for this?' A lot of it's just a mental block — mental things you've got to get over.”

Fortunately, getting over is something Kallman has plenty of experience in. From playing his way into starting with MNUFC at the NASL level to starting every season in MLS on the bench before working his way onto the pitch one way or another, he’s had plenty of opportunities to count himself out, but he just never has. Once again, he finds himself needing to play his way in.

“I wouldn't have it any other way. I like the feeling. I've never had the luxury in my entire career of being complacent,” he said. “Even going back to college, I played for three head coaches in four years. New head coach comes in, you've got to prove yourself. And I feel like it's the same way this year. Coming off of the suspension, a lot of people are probably pretty down on me, some even writing me off.”

As we talked, he paused here, noticeably. Kallman’s been praised before for his tenacity, his stubbornness. Sometimes, those kind of traits can grow from bitterness, from a desire to silence doubters. Kallman’s motivation comes from a different place.

“I'm more eager to prove the people right that have believed in me this whole time,” he continued. “That's always been my focus. I've had so many people, my family being number one, but players I've played with, coaches, there's a whole lot of people that believe in me, and that's what really drives me, is to prove those people right.”