Frequent contributor Jon Marthaler has written about virtually every sport in the Twin Cities, and fills in on Saturdays for the RandBall blog on StarTribune.com. He'll cover the professional soccer scene in the Twin Cities, whether at the Metrodome or at the National Sports Center.
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A few local soccer notes on this frigid Monday...
Eric Miller signs Generation Adidas contract
Woodbury native Eric Miller is heading to the pro ranks a little earlier than expected. The defender signed a Generation Adidas contract, part of a program designed to get young players into MLS before they graduate. The move means that Miller will forgo his senior season at Creighton, and will be part of the MLS SuperDraft on January 16.
Miller has been part of the USA Under-20 national team the past several years, including a trip to the U-20 World Cup last summer. A mock draft from TopDrawerSoccer.com, which covers college and club soccer, has him going eighth in the draft, to the Chicago Fire.
The list of Generation Adidas alumni is a veritable who's who of American soccer; Tim Howard, Landon Donovan, Jozy Altidore, and Clint Dempsey all came through the program, back when it was known as Project-40. It's a joint program between US Soccer and Major League Soccer to help develop young talent. In one way, at least, it's risk-free; players who sign Generation Adidas contracts will have the remainder of their college schooling paid for, should soccer not work out.
Two Minnesotans part of USA U-18 national team
Two Minnesotans are part of the under-18 national team training camp that is taking place this week in Florida. Midfielders Mukwelle Akale and Jackson Yueill, both part of the Minnesota Thunder Academy in Woodbury, are in Florida this week with 22 other youth standouts for a weeklong camp. The team is preparing for the Copa del Atlantico, a yearly international youth tournament in the Canary Islands, that is played near the beginning of February.
Akale is one of five players in the squad that played for the under-18 team in October, at a similar tournament in France. He played in all three games, as the USA tied France and beat the Czech Republic and Poland on their way to second place. TopDrawerSoccer.com has him ranked as the #3 prospect on its list of club soccer players.
In some ways, the U-18 team is a feeder team for the U-20 team, in that the latter has a World Cup competition that's held every two years. Akale and Yueill, both of whom are set to graduate from high school in 2015, are thus on track to add a couple more names to the ranks of USA youth internationals, following Miller and goalkeeper Cody Cropper from last year's U-20 team.
Florida State defender - and Woodbury native - Kassey Kallman is in the running for college soccer's highest award, the Hermann Trophy. The senior was named one of 15 semifinalists for the award last week, which will be given out at the Missouri Athletic Club's banquet in January.
The three finalists for the Hermann Trophy will be decided through a weighted vote that includes both voting by coaches and an online fan vote. (You can go here to cast your vote, should you wish to make your voice heard in the voting.)
Kallman and her FSU teammates came within a whisker of adding a national championship to their trophy case, as well. They beat Virginia Tech 3-2 in Friday's semifinals, but lost 1-0 in overtime against UCLA in Sunday's championship, a heartbreaking end to what was arguably the best season in school history.
For more on Kassey - and the rest of the Kallman soccer dynasty - the NCAA website had a good story on the family. According to that article, Kassey plans to enter the Women's Premier Soccer League draft; she could be following her brothers Brian and Brent into the pro soccer ranks.
In other local soccer news, NBC Sports ran a good online article about Maple Grove native Cody Cropper, who is perhaps the next great American goalkeeper. The 20-year-old is currently toiling at Southampton in the English Premier League, and hoping to become the latest in a long line of USA keepers who have made their mark in England, following greats like Brad Friedel, Kasey Keller, and Tim Howard.
It turned out the article was timed pretty well. Last week, Cropper made it into the match-day squad for Southampton for the first time ever, serving as the backup keeper on both Wednesday and Saturday. The Saints are down to their third choice in net at the moment, with two veterans out injured in front of him.
The article also mentions that Cropper commiserated with his interviewer about the Vikings' and Wild's struggles, and if that doesn't make him officially "One of Us," nothing will.
(My thanks to local soccer expert Brian Quarstad for sending over the above links, and keeping us all informed on the Minnesota soccer scene.)
Woodbury native Kassey Kallman has been a standout for many years, and Thursday, she received her latest in a long list of accolades. Kallman was named the ACC Defensive Player of the year, the first Seminole so honored in FSU's soccer history.
Kallman has started every game this year for the Seminoles, who are ranked third in the nation. In fact, she's started every game of her four-year college career, except for the six games she missed as a junior while helping lead the USA U-20 national team to a U-20 World Cup title.
Kallman was also announced as part of the All-ACC first team, her second straight appearance on the top all-conference team. She is just the third Florida State player to receive any conference Player of the Year award; the previous two were Offensive Players of the Year.
For the uninitiated, Kassey is the latest in the long line of the Kallman soccer dynasty; brothers Brian and Brent play for Minnesota United FC, while sisters Krystle and Kylie are former Gopher stars. Kassey might be the most-decorated of the lot, though; she won two state championships at Woodbury HS, five club state championships with Woodbury Inferno, and also has the aforementioned World Cup gold medal, as well. She has also helped lead Florida State to the NCAA College Cup in both of the past two years.
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