BLAINE, Minn. — Brent Kallman walked off Minnesota United’s training grounds in Blaine on Thursday, Sept. 19, and Loons defender from Woodbury, Minn., won’t be back for months.
With teammates seated on a grass field after practice, Kallman shared his remorse in being suspended 10 games for testing positive for a banned substance. That punishment will include the final four regular-season games into October, any potential matches in the MLS Cup playoffs and up to six games next season. Each playoff game Minnesota might play this fall will count as a game toward his ban.
Kallman said in an interview Thursday he was working through injuries this summer and consumed a performance-enhancing product for about four weeks to try to stay on the practice field and be available for games.
“That’s when I gave in and I caved to the pressure and I started taking something,” he said. “Now I’m paying the consequences for it.”
Kallman, who also will be docked 20% of his annual salary, acknowledged he should have met with United’s athletic training and medical staff before consuming a questionable product, one he declined to share the name of. The MLS collective bargaining agreement states the name of the banned substance will be kept private.
This is a major blow to the depth of the Loons’ back line as the club works to lock down one of the top four Western Conference spots necessary to host a home playoff game. United (14-10-6) is in third place heading into Sunday’s game against eighth-place Portland (13-13-4) at Providence Park.
“Disappointed in myself because I feel like I really let the team down,” Kallman said. “Everybody knows its a super-important push that we have going on right now, and I should be available to play.”
Kallman has been the first player to step in for the regular center-back pairing of Ike Opara and Michael Boxall, and his upcoming absence presents questions on who will step up if the first-choice starters can’t play.
Kallman, who posted a statement on Instagram, said he was going to tell the team: “The truth. What happened. And to apologize for No. 1 not being there for them, being able to even be here (at the training grounds) with them, but No. 2, that it could be seen as a distraction and giving them my encouragement to try to best not let it be, take care of business and see the season out well.”
United coach Adrian Heath spoke to the team Thursday morning on the issue as well as with Kallman directly. “We will be there to support him through this,” Heath said. “He has made a big mistake and something that won’t be forgotten very, very quickly.”
Kallman’s suspension is similar to the one issued to Seattle defender Roman Torres in August 2018. Kallman’s suspension will keep him away from the team training sessions and use the club’s facilities at the National Sports Center in Blaine, unless his presence is tied to a specific injury.
While he can participate in preseason camp next winter, Kallman’s suspension could carry over until next April, when the sixth game of each season has been typically played. He also will be ineligible to play in the CONCACAF Champions League, if the Loons’ advance to the regional tournament next spring, but those games won’t count toward his suspension.
Heath said it’s a reminder to players to consult with the club before consuming any unknown product.
“Because the shortcut route, which he thought it was going to be — well, have a guess what — it’s not so short after all,” Heath said. “With the games, depending on how many games we’ve got, (and) you look at the time, this could be six months, seven months before the ban is up.”
Kallman’s sample went through a second test to confirm the results before the suspension was levied. He said he asked questions about a possible appeal but declined to pursue it, saying the league makes it clear that players are responsible for what they put in their bodies.
Without Kallman, the Loons could call on eight-year MLS veteran Lawrence Olum, 35, or Wyatt Omsberg, a second-year player who was recalled from his loan with Forward Madison to practice with the team Wednesday. Omsberg was named to the Team of the Week for Minnesota’s USL League One affiliate on Tuesday.
Olum has played in eight games, primarily as a defensive midfielder, this season. Omsberg played in seven games for Minnesota in MLS last season, but none this year. Heath first mentioned Omsberg as a likely next man up.
Kallman, 28, played 16 of 30 games for United this season, including a 90-minute shift on Sept. 1, when as the Loons changed to a more defensive shape to produce a 2-0 road win over first-place Los Angeles FC.
Kallman has been with United since the club was in the North American Soccer League in 2013. The Woodbury High School alum played 42 games across those four years in the NASL and saw action in a combined 47 games for Minnesota in MLS in 2017 and 2018.