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Kyle Altman's choice - soccer, or saving lives?

Minnesota's team captain and all-star defender is a free agent, and now faces a difficult choice - more soccer, or medical school?

Jeremy Olson, DigitalGopher.net

Kyle Altman hasn't made up his mind.

He's training on his own, having followed his girlfriend into Appalachia, and so now he's got both a number of options and time on his hands to think, and come springtime he'll have to make a choice that's been following him for a couple of years now.

More time excelling on the soccer field - or a move into the medical field?

Says Altman, "One day you catch me and I'm gung-ho about going to med school, and the next day I'm never going to med school and I just want to play soccer with my friends for the rest of my life. It just kind of depends on what day you catch me."

Altman, who'll be 27 in January, was the Stars' standout player in 2012. He captained the team. He was a stalwart in central defense, so much so that he was named to the North American Soccer League Best XI. He even managed to goad the league's top scorer into getting himself sent off for a headbutt in the playoff semifinals.

At the same time, though, Altman had to consider his medical future, something that he says he's passionate about. And now, after year in which he was "able to weasel another deferral out of med school" - his words - the school has made it clear that either he trades his jersey for a doctor's coat next spring, or he'll be forced to re-apply and re-take his tests.

It's clear that it's been weighing on his mind. Asked if he's even started on making that decision, he can only laugh at the question. "It's been about four years in the running," he says.

"I love playing soccer, and it's going to be hard to give it up - but I'm going to have to give it up eventually, so it's kind of delaying the inevitable. Med school's such a great opportunity, and I've put in a lot of work to get this far, and it'd be a shame to let that lay by the wayside. It's something that I've been thinking about for a long time."

Even if he does decide to continue on with his soccer career, he has his options open there, as well. Altman is a free agent, and so conceivably could land anywhere - but effectively has played his entire career in Minnesota, with one partial season with the now-defunct Thunder followed by three full seasons with the Stars franchise. "I've enjoyed playing for Minnesota for such a long time," he says, "and I've established myself there. [Head coach] Manny [Lagos] and I have a real good relationship, and I have a good relationship with the fans in Minnesota."

"It's a tough place to leave, but I'm still open to offers."

Minnesota has, as you might expect, made it clear that should he decide to stick with soccer for another year, the team would love to have him back. Medical school, meanwhile, has asked him to make his decision by March or April, with school set to begin in July.

Altman has found some distance. He's had an opportunity to "clear his head and get away from everything that's been going on," in his words.

Now all that's left is to make up his mind.

Photographs by Micah Taylor, clairity, and Fibonacci Blue used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.