Minnesota isn’t traditionally thought of as a hotbed of soccer talent, but the state is producing more excellent players each year. With the American season starting up, it’s a good time to review the state’s standout players — and some who are just coming onto the scene.
Prior Lake native Teal Bunbury has long been perhaps Minnesota’s best player, and in his third season with the New England Revolution, he appears set for at least a part-time return to his roots as a striker.
Bunbury has played most of the past two years on the wing for the Revolution, but with a crowded New England midfield, he is seeing occasional time as a front man. He scored in each of the Revs’ final three preseason games but still is searching for his first regular-season goal after three MLS games.
Former Minnesota Thunder Academy teammates Mukwelle Akale and Jackson Yueill, who both recently turned 19, are making waves on opposite sides of the Atlantic. Akale has been a standout for the youth team of Spain’s Villarreal for two seasons, and the club recently gave him his first start for one of the club’s senior reserve teams.
Yueill, like Akale a midfielder, was one of the best college players in the West as a freshman for UCLA and is widely touted as a potential top MLS draftee.
Woodbury’s Kassey Kallman is set for her second season anchoring the Boston Breakers defense. Boston traded for USWNT defender Whitney Engen in the offseason, in the hope that slotting her alongside Kallman might finally build a solid defensive foundation for the Breakers, but potential Olympic duty for Engen might leave Kallman in charge for a long stretch this summer. Locally, Kallman’s older brother Brent started eight times last year at center back for Minnesota United, in his fourth year with the club. With the team’s recent struggles in central defense, he may be set for expanded role this year.
In MLS, former Henry Sibley standout and current Montreal Impact midfielder Calum Mallace may be in for a make-or-break season. So far in 2016, he’s been a first-choice defensive midfielder, and this is his chance to prove he belongs, once and for all. Mallace’s former teammate Eric Miller is starting over in Colorado after a trade, a chance for the Woodbury native to get regular minutes with the Rapids. Miller is also part of the U-23 team that is attempting to qualify for the Olympics this weekend, alongside goalkeeper Cody Cropper, who spent his high school years in Maple Grove. Cropper has been with MK Dons in England’s second division this year and recently made his first few starts for the club.
Mallace and Bunbury, both 26, are the oldest of the eight Minnesotans who are just hitting their soccer primes.