As identical twins, Justus and Skyler Kjellander share plenty of traits.
The same freckles dot their faces. The same mop of red-brown hair rests atop their head. And the same love of soccer pumps through their veins.
But the members of the U-16 Idaho Rush Premier boys soccer club have their differences, and the combination of those similarities and differences have led their club team to the third-place game of the Idaho State Cup tournament.
Rush, the four-time defending state champ, was upset by the Boise Nationals 2-1 in Sunday’s semifinal round. Rush, based in Boise, will take on FC Nova Black out of Meridian at 9 a.m. Monday at the Simplot Sports Complex for the third-place medal.
“The way we want to play is we really want to put the ball on the floor and connect,” said Michael Mollay, the twins’ coach with Idaho Rush. “You have to have technical players. You have to have smart players.
“The fact they’re so fluid in being able to play any position and they’re effective anywhere they play, they have the ability and the intellect to do that. To be honest with you, without them, this team is not the same.”
Both grew up as attacking players. But Skyler switched to left back at 12 years old.
Both are left handed. But Justus’ dominant foot is his right one.
Justus is four minutes older. But Skyler is the more talkative of the two and is impossible to miss on the field with neon orange cleats.
“The thing about them is they’re quietly competitive,” said Skyler Bell, director of coaching for the Idaho Youth Soccer Association. “They’ll come up to you and shake your hand and call you sir. They’re quiet, good kids. And then on the field the competitor comes out and they’re very fun to watch in that way.”
The two enter their junior year this fall at Centennial High and honed their skills battling each year in front of their front-yard goal, each taking a turn trying to find a way to beat and slip a goal past their mirror image.
Both Skyler and Justus said they win about 50 percent of the matches, but the constant skirmishes force each one to improve.
“We play every time we get a chance,” Justus said. “One goes in the goal and we try to rip it as hard as we can at each other.”
The duo’s talent has also drawn the attention of scouts. Two weeks ago, the Idaho Youth Soccer Association and the Portland Timbers announced a deal that gives the Timbers’ developmental academy territorial rights to all of Idaho’s youth players. Portland will host a tryout July 20-23 at The College of Idaho to identify players for its academy. The Kjellanders have been invited to the tryout, and they said Real Salt Lake has also expressed interest in trying them out for its academy.
Eagle native Blake Bodily, a Boise Nationals alum, joined the Timbers Academy in July and committed to the University of Washington in April.
But Paul Kjellander, the twins’ father, knows an invitation to a tryout and an invitation to an academy remain a long way apart.
“It depends on what happens,” he said. “With the Timbers coming in, there is a lot of chatter. But you never know until you look. I know my kids are interested in going as far as they can, so we’ll see what comes of it.”