By Jeff Helfrich/NPSL.com
Bobby Shuttleworth and Brent Kallman have always done it the hard way.
Minnesota United FC’s second year in MLS has been stabilized by the pair of NPSL alumni. The goalkeeper Shuttleworth was between the posts for Buffalo City FC in 2009. The defender Kallman was a member of the league with the MNUFC Reserves, and now starts for the MLS first team, the epitome of the organization’s metamorphosis.
“We had the NPSL, they wanted a reserve team and it just kind of worked out through luck, my whole career has been luck I guess,” Kallman said. “I was lucky that we had that setup. After that, I was lucky that we ended up moving to MLS and I had the opportunity to jump with them.”
Professional soccer was never on the table for Kallman growing up. He walked on at Creighton after growing up in the state of Minnesota. He eventually saw action on the first team and quietly became one of the best in his position by his senior year. Still, opportunities were sparse. His only pipeline to turn pro was an opportunity with MNUFC, opened up by his brother, who played with the then NASL side.
Shuttleworth cut his teeth at the University of Buffalo and during a summer at Buffalo City before earning a chance with the New England Revolution. First, he was a backup for three years. Later, he found himself in an MLS Cup. Two years ago, he left the league’s oldest club for its youngest in MNUFC.
“I had only been with one club for eight seasons and I put a lot of work and a lot of my life into that team and living in that area,” Shuttleworth said. “I was sad to go, but really excited to move to a new club and move on to a new challenge and things had gone a bit stale for me soccer-wise, so I was ready for something new.”
The relationship between any goalkeeper and center back has layers to it. Integral to the defensive unit, Shuttleworth and Kallman have a give-and-take dynamic. Bobby is vocal and demanding, but understanding. He relates to Kallman in more than one way.
“He’s really had to work extremely hard for every step that he’s taken in his career,” Shuttleworth said. “I think there’s a lot of people that have doubted him along the way and he’s managed to prove a lot of those people wrong and continue to progress and improve and I see a lot of that in my own career. He’s followed the same path as me.”
During the 2018 preseason, Shuttleworth dealt with a quad injury and a spell of vertigo that caused him to lose the starting goalkeeper job. He would go on to start 25 matches and set the club record for saves in a single match with nine against Sporting KC. He didn’t even know he set it until it was brought up months later. Again, never the easy way.
A recent expansion team like MNUFC is always in need of leadership. A steady goalkeeper like Shuttleworth could be the man for the job. But, the dark horse for that leader role is none other than Brent Kallman, the hometown kid, the organization veteran. From MNUFC in the NPSL to MNUFC in MLS.
The first expansion year was surreal for the veteran. But, after two subpar seasons in the standings, it’s time to get to work.
“I take a little bit of extra pride and accountability in wanting to make sure I’m doing my job well and trying to be a leader on and off the field,” Kallman said. “For me, being from here, it just adds a little bit extra pressure but I like it. It forces me to make sure I’m doing all the right things and performing.”
Both have been performing quite well this season. Shuttleworth has tallied 103 saves in those 25 stars, logging an incredible 2,250 minutes of play. Kallman has also been a regular in the lineup with 1,805 minutes in 22 appearances (20 starts).
It’s a great story: two NPSL alums working their way up to MLS and having tremendous success there. Everyone in Minnesota is certainly proud of this duo and the difference they make on the pitch each and every day.
Photo Credit: Richard Kruszynski/ISNSoccer.com and NPSL.com Stock Photo
Photo Credit: Ken Tishenkel/ISNSoccer.com