One of the happiest days of Woodbury native Eric Miller's 25 years was Tuesday, May 1, 2018. Actually, it was that evening—when he got a call from his pro soccer team (the Colorado Rapids), informing him that he’d been traded to his hometown team, Minnesota United FC. The trade didn't come as a total surprise to Miller.
“When it was getting near the trade deadline, I had heard rumblings something might happen for some of the guys ‘on the fringe,’” he says (“the fringe” refers to the team’s non-starters). A former Minnesota Mr. Soccer in high school, Miller got the good news a couple of hours before the midnight trade deadline. “I was super excited. I knew I always wanted to come home and play here.”
After arriving back in Minnesota, Miller moved into a starting spot for the Loons, as a right back. He was also pleased the trade home happened when he is still relatively early in his career. He's hoping to keep playing for another decade or so, if possible.
And there was some serendipity involved in Miller's original choice to become a soccer player at age 5. After his family moved here from Florida, his mom, Susan, signed him up to play T-ball. “But they never called us back. So my mom went back and signed me up for the one sport that was still open, which was soccer,” Miller remembers.
Miller, whose parents, Mike and Susan, own the Lakes Tavern and Grill in Woodbury, played soccer at Woodbury High School and won a scholarship to Creighton University in Nebraska his junior year. He graduated from high school six months early, the following December, and started at Creighton the following month, playing three years for their varsity team.
Miller wasn't the only one brought back home by his trade. He was accompanied by his fiancée, Kassey Kallman, also a Woodbury native, who had moved to Colorado with Miller. They plan to get married this New Year's Eve in St. Paul, and have bought a home in south Minneapolis. “We were both excited about the trade,” Kallman says. “We have both been living away from home for so long, at college and then playing four years of pro soccer.” Kallman has played in the National Women's Soccer League (she's currently on hiatus), after playing in college at Florida State University. She says she’d like to play more pro soccer, but only if she can do that in the Twin Cities, which doesn’t currently have a team in the NWSL.
A soccer player since age 4, Kallman recently started working as an assistant varsity boys’ soccer coach at Hill-Murray School. And she met Miller via her brothers, Brent (now Miller's teammate on MNUFC) and Brian, who also played for MNUFC until he retired in 2016. Miller and Brent Kallman are old friends who carpooled to high school soccer practice together and later were teammates at Creighton.
Playing for the local team “has been great so far,” Miller says. “It's been cool to see professional soccer grow; it's heading in a really good direction, with more and more fans in Minnesota who care a lot about soccer.” The biggest factor in the popularity growth of pro soccer is that there are more and more adults who played youth soccer growing up, and are still interested in the game. “Now there is [the MLS league]; that's probably been the biggest thing that has helped.”
Miller says he's hoping to do his part to make major league soccer reach new heights of popularity, right in his hometown.