“Playing MLS is a big attraction, especially when you’ve come as far as I have,” Altman said. “So it was probably ego more than anything else.”
Staying sharp on, off the field
Has the decision to trade his captain’s armband for a white coat brought Altman peace?
“Hard to say,” Altman said. “Sometimes more than others. I feel like I’m walking away when I’m playing my best soccer. I could have a longer career, most likely here in Minnesota.”
United goalkeeper Matt VanOekel, who started in Minnesota with Altman in 2008, understands his friend’s reluctance to retire.
“I think it’s tough for him to hang it up because he sees guys he played with going to MLS,” said VanOekel, who spent a month training with D.C. United of MLS earlier this year. “Many of us think he could play at that level.”
Taking a rational view, Altman knows going to medical school puts him on a more lucrative post-soccer path than many peers are on. Leaving professional soccer, Altman said, “is a tough transition for a lot of guys because they have to learn who they are without their main identity.”
VanOekel knew one player from D.C. United going to medical school but said “a lot of guys” playing various levels of pro soccer “haven’t finished college.”
“It certainly is rare,” Minnesota United coach Manny Lagos said of Altman’s medical school pursuits. “And it doesn’t surprise me that Kyle stayed so committed to soccer while working on his next path.”
To keep his mind sharp, Altman took online courses in biochemistry and genetics through the University of California-Berkeley. He is currently taking two more, the biology of cancer and human anatomy. But he does not earn credits toward medical school for any of them.
Likewise, a victory in Thursday’s game against Atlanta would have no bearing on Minnesota’s playoff chances. After its latest loss, the team cannot win the spring season title anymore for a spot in November’s finals. The next chance will come with the season’s second leg, which starts in August.
By then Altman will be gone. But his pending retirement gives teammates something extra to strive for Thursday.
“I’d be shocked if anyone who stepped on the field was not thinking about winning for Kyle,” teammate and housemate Travis Wall said. “He represents everything you want in a captain, and we want to see him go out the right way.”