The NPSL has always been seen as an excellent way of developing young players for the professional game, but that experience can also be good for veteran players fine tuning their game.
Take the case of Brent Kallman and Kentaro Takada, two players that spent time with the Minnesota United Reserves in 2014. Both used the experience to further their game and each found benefits to competing in the NPSL.
Kallman entered the 2014 NASL season as a young professional looking to make his mark and thanks to his work in the NPSL, he enters 2015 with a new contract and high expectations for the future.
He brought experience and a physical presence to the squad, but also took something valuable from his time there.
“It was beneficial for me to play in some real games,” Kallman commented. “I would train for long periods of time with little real game competition. Some things you can’t replicate in training, so it was good to experience some situations and challenges that games present.”
Playing for United’s reserve squad also provides opportunities for game fitness, a remainder of sorts for how demanding a 90-minute match can actually be. This also provides a level of confidence you don’t find in training, the idea that you need to actually play in games to grow as a player.
The reserve team model has been successful for years, just ask NPSL alum Chris Wondolowski of the San Jose Earthquakes. Wondolowski was clearly a handful for opposing defenses in the MLS Reserve League from 2005-2008, scoring 34 goals for the Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo Reserves. The time in the Reserves allowed him to grow his game into an impressive career, one that saw him earning two Budweiser Golden Boots in MLS and a trip to Brazil with the U.S. Men’s National Team.
Kentaro Takada’s situation was a bit different than both Kallman and Wondolowski as “Taka” was a veteran player with years of experience in Japan’s professional leagues. He also excelled here in the States, scoring the first goal in the history of the relaunched NASL on April 9, 2011. Takada was a fixture in Manny Lagos’ midfield from 2010-2013, making 79 appearances and scoring four goals.
He didn’t need to gain experience or grow his game; he was already there as a seasoned veteran. Instead he used his time in the NPSL to stay fresh and be ready for the call-up to the NASL should the need arise.
Yet he still found playing in the NPSL to be enormously positive.
“The NPSL is a good league with good energy and good players. It is good for players that want to go pro,” stated Takada, a player who also starred for Thespa Kusatsu and the Rochester Thunder.
It was also positive for those that played with him, given his years of experience at the professional level.
“There were a lot of young players that I was able to help. I was able to teach and lead them, sharing my experience.”
No wonder many see Takada’s future in coaching. Who wouldn’t want to learn from someone that has played around the world and says he lives for soccer? So it is very clear that the NPSL experience can be beneficial to people in many different ways. Whether you are a young player or a seasoned veteran, the NPSL model simply works.