17- Henry Kalungi
It’s easy to fall into the simple traps when talking about defenders: big, tough, good in the air, physical. In many cases, each of those traits are true; stereotypes do exist for a reason. In the case of Henry Kalungi, they only scratched the surface of what he contributed on the field, much less off the field. A pillar in the back for six seasons with the Kickers, the Ugandan helped lead the Kickers to league glory, playoff success, and a magical Open Cup run. His constant presence and quality of contribution has led him to be named #17 on our list of the Greatest Kickers of All-Time.
Henry Kalungi was born in Kampala, Uganda, moving to the United States in 2006 to attend Withrop University. While at Winthrop, he excelled, winning Big South First Team All-South Atlantic Region honors. Following graduation, he was drafted by the Colorado Rapids, but ultimately signed with Richmond leading into the 2009 season. He immediately grabbed a spot in the starting lineup at center back, featuring in 19 of 20 regular season games as the Kickers finished tied for first and kept the best defensive record in the league, conceding under a goal a game. Henry and his teammates ultimately won the championship that year, defeating Charlotte in the final.
Kalungi would remain a constant in the back the next few years, building a lasting partnership with William Yomby. Henry’s physical nature would see him regularly matched up against traditional center forwards, cleaning up flighted balls before any danger could arise. He helped lead Richmond back to the final in 2010, was a key component in the march to the Open Cup semifinal in 2011, and maintained his role as a regular during the 2013 regular season championship season. During this time Henry also earned call-ups to the Ugandan national team, representing his country 15 times and captaining the squad on multiple occasions.
While Henry never scored a goal for the Kickers, he did chip in with a couple of assists. Ultimately though, he was a throwback player, the defender who loved to defend. Sadly, his 2014 season would be cut short, rupturing his ACL in a marquee friendly against Crystal Palace. To this day, I maintain that was a key turning point in the season, and may be what kept the Kickers from making another run at a title.
After his 2014 injury, Henry moved on to play with the Charlotte Independence for four more seasons. Following his retirement, he has spent extensive time and energy on his Henry Kalungi Foundation, dedicated to helping improve the lives of his fellow Ugandans. He is also the Director of the Alpha Soccer Academy in Fort Mill, South Carolina.