You currently play for Birmingham Legion FC after signing for the club following a successful loan spell. How are you enjoying your time at the club so far and how would you describe a club such as Birmingham Legion FC?
I can honestly say that going on loan and being with team constantly really helped me improve as a player, Birmingham in Alabama is a city that is a little different. It is not a huge city actually it is quite small, but everyone would also say that Birmingham was dying for a professional football team and the fans were very welcoming, as well as the players and backroom staff too. Upon arriving at the club, I knew the Head Coach ( Tom Soehn), and President and General Manager ( Jay Heaps) because they were part of drafting me back in New England but overall it has been great so far and the fans were ecstatic about the inaugural season.
You played four seasons for Vermont Catamounts. How do you look back on your college career and do you have any highlights or special memories?
My four seasons at Vermount Catamounts during my college career were pretty good. I really enjoyed it and I did a lot of maturing going there as a teenager and leaving as a man before going into the real world. I would say from the beginning to the end I really started to develop as a player and every preseason I would work on the things that the coaches told me I needed to develop and the things that I was aware that I needed to work. I also had teammates that wanted to work with me and that also had aspirations of improving.
It was a good environment to be in – I started off kind of slow during my Freshman year and by the halfway point of my Freshman year I realized that I could be dominating a little bit more and that is my only regret that I could have been a lot more confident when I started. But definitely by the time I left Vermont Catamounts I was flying with confidence especially during my senior year.
You played two seasons for the New England Revolution. How do you look back on your time at the club and do you have any special highlights or memories?
I would say that my time at New England Revolution in terms of playing was kind of a roller coaster especially during my first season. I would say that my first season at the club was really a learning curve for me from a college level to a professional level in terms of playing, taking care of my body and nutrition.
My rookie season was up and down going from being successful to coming in and being part of the squad and trying to fight to get into the 18 every weekend. My first year was rough but I had some good points as well our second game in the Open Cup ( where the MLS teams come in at the 4th round ) and in the 5th round we played DC United and I scored my first professional goal which turned out to be the winner and that was a huge highlight for me.
Towards the end of the season our coach got fired and the following year Brad Friedel came in so the club shook up their approach in how they ran things and with Brad coming from Tottenham Hotspur he kind of ran the club how Tottenham Hotspur would in terms of training style and it was totally different. He told us coming in ” The way we are going to train will be totally different than the way most people are used to ” which was true. I learned lots of things including how coaches want to play and how they train.
It was different from how Jay Heaps did it but in my second year I got a lot more of opportunities and chances and also my first MLS start as well as my first goal which was also very exciting. Up until last season and technically being in the New England squad although being out on loan Brad told me ”We want to you get a bunch of games and to go on loan is the best thing to do.” I was excited to go out on loan to get games and play regularly but unfortunately New England Revolution were kind of struggling so I was recalled to the club after only five weeks on loan at Birmingham Legion but unfortunately Brad ended up getting fired and I returned to Birmingham Legion on loan for the rest of the season.
You have accrued a lot of experience at different levels, could you say who are the best players you have played alongside so far in your career?
Yes, one of the players that stand out for me is my current team mate Daigo Kobayashi. He was also at New England Revolution during my first season and ever since day one I have always realized Daigo’s technical ability with the ball and how he takes care of it and his technique is always spot on.
He is currently in his 20th as a professional footballer and it is amazing to see how he has taken care of his body, to last so long and the things that were instilled in him at a young age he still carries with him to this day. Another player is Lee Nguyen – he was a regular in the starting eleven for New England Revolution and we are also good friends as well.
Another player named Juan Agudelo – he is a player in which I see myself because we have physical attributes and he is also a forward and a lot of people do not expect forwards to have such good feet but I think with his size and his frame, Juan has really good feet and great footwork. I have been fortunate to play with many good players so far in my career especially from my first few years at New England Revolution and all players have different backgrounds, some did the homegrown route, Lee went overseas, even someone like Chris Tierney who also did the college route as well and after attended an open trial at New England Revolution, he went on to spend eleven seasons at the club and he was teammates with Jay Heaps who eventually managed the club.
I also believe that Chris had really good feet as well as a great left foot and accurate crossing ability and he is a player where normally you would think a wing back would be really fast and athletic and to be fair Chris was not the most athletic guy but when he was on the pitch he knew where to be and he definitely knew how to put a ball in the box with precision.
I can imagine in your position as a forward that you have played against some difficult opponents, could you say which opponents have stood out for you in terms of talent and ability so far in your career?
Yes, for sure – Honestly one of the opponents that stood out for me although I never went up against him directly was David Villa. I played against him when I got my first MLS start and scored my first MLS goal and being a kid growing up watching the World Cup and watching La Liga too, just to be able to share the pitch with a player of that quality was an unbelievable experience.
On the day we won the game 1-0, but the chances that David Villa were getting and creating was unbelievable and to see firsthand his quality and how he strikes the ball and the accolades he has won, World Cup 2010, La Liga and Champions League, was incredible After my Junior fall in 2015 I went over and trained with Sporting Gijon reserve team in Spain.
I trained with them for two weeks, and obviously I knew about David Villa but I did not know he played for Sporting Gijon until I saw a giant picture of him at the training ground. Carlos Vela has been tearing up the MLS for some time and after the New York City FC (against Villa) match I started in the following away game at LAFC and we drew that game. Carlos Vela has been one of the players that has been dominating the MLS since he arrived in the United States
Finally Brian, could you say who are the coaches and managers who have meant a lot to you and have played a key role in your development as a professional footballer so far in your career?
I would go back to my younger days and coaches I remember from later on my career from my club days were Tom Croft and Dario Basrado, Dario’s son is also doing the professional route as well and they both instilled little things in me when I was younger and obviously it is different here in United States than in Europe but I was always one of those players that stood out athletically and I did well but I was somewhat lazy when I was younger and they would instill in me that you can’t be lazy if you want to get to the next level, especially later on in my career.
Tom Croft had been sending kids to college for years and when I was young I always knew I wanted to play football professionally but my parents said I need to go to school so in my route to becoming a professional I had to go through club and then through university and then eventually turn pro but Tom and Dario would always tell me that ”You have to work harder, you have to be fitter!” and then my I got to college and then my college coaches were constantly telling me how to improve my game by continuing to work hard and stay fit and be smart because when you get to a professional level people will be just as athletic as you if not more so you have to make more educated runs and these coaches were constantly trying to help me develop my game as well as myself.
I watch a lot of football and in games I try to watch the forwards and the movements that they make and try to emulate that into my game and I try to be a sponge and soak up as much information as much possible to help improve my game and better myself.