The throw-in arced into the box like a flare. It dipped into the box, caromed off teammate Ricardo Velazco’s head and was pushed back out into the mixer by Timbers 2 keeper Kendall McIntosh. It was a Saturday in Portland.
Andrew Brody, ever the opportunist, was at the far post, waiting. Brody flew into the picture, tapped home the loose ball and gave Real Monarchs a lifeline. It was Brody’s first professional goal, and somewhere churning in the recesses of his mind’s eye he was in his back yard with his brother and sister and dad and those warm times played on an endless loop.
Brody’s Monarchs did not win the match, plowed under as they were by T2’s onslaught in a 3-1 road loss last weekend. But Saturday marked another promising performance in the winger’s growing professional catalog. In November, Brody signed his first professional contract for Real Salt Lake after a standout career for the University of Louisville and RSL’s highly regarded Arizona academy. In January, he was assigned to RSL’s nascent USL franchise, Real Monarchs. He’s been a reliable starter since the season began. And now he has his first goal.
Brody’s story, like everyone’s, is an amalgam of family and experience and memory. But Andrew’s tale is as much a story of the Brody family as a nuclear unit, a prototypical American soccer family in the American soccer century.
There is Andrew of course, the oldest and the current focal point of the family’s professional prowess. Eric, the middle child, is currently a high school senior in the family’s home city of Orlando. A few months ago, he parlayed a standout club career into a scholarship to Division II powerhouse Newberry College. And then there is Megan, a promising central creative midfielder currently playing for Orlando City’s U15 ECNL squad.
The Brody family’s soccer root is Scott, the family patriarch with professional experience in American soccer’s badlands coursing through his veins.
Scott, who grew up in Miami, came up in the early 90’s playing for UNLV, and after graduation he was offered contracts in Europe. He demurred, instead opting to play semi-pro and professional ball in Las Vegas and Colorado before injuries ended his career prematurely after six knee surgeries.
That background, though, gave Scott a unique vantage on his three kids’ sporting futures. While most of America’s kids clung to soccer at an early age and then abandoned it for other ventures later, Scott’s love of the game was quickly transmitted to his three kids.
“When we started having our family, I just wanted the kids to play,” Scott says. “Soccer has just been so great to me over the years. I was just happy when everyone wanted to play.”
It did not take long for all three, once they were old enough, to fall in love with the game in the same way their father had. For the Brody family, the back yard might as well have been Old Trafford. From seemingly the time Megan could walk, Scott and his youngest daughter would team up against Eric and Andrew in two-v-two battles on a regular basis. While all three caught on with clubs and found an identity there, these moments are still held in precious thrall by all four.
As anyone in any of the world’s myriad soccer cultures can attest, even the world’s most skilled players found themselves in the most informal of settings. Streets. Alleys. Random pickup games on hard-scrabble blacktop. And back yards.
Eric quickly grew into the enforcer of the four, establishing himself as the stern holding midfielder who looked to fire up his brother. Andrew, the one who took to the game the fastest, was the mazy dribbler continually looking to beat his dad and sister one on one. Megan, playing with her former professional dad and against her two older and more physical brothers, developed skill to match the grazes on her knees.
“The games would get pretty heated,” Eric said. “We usually won the games. My sister would always try to do everything herself and my dad would get mad. It was just always a great time.”
As Andrew grew into club age, meanwhile, Scott found a new calling as a coach. He’d never planned on taking up a clipboard and getting his coaching badges, but one fateful practice changed his mind.
“(Andrew’s) first training, the coach just lined everybody up and said, ‘Kick it as hard as you can,’” says Scott, who currently coaches in the Orlando City system Megan plays in. “They were all using their toe and whatever else they were using. That’s when I said that, yeah, I might be able to do a little bit better job.”
The family, too, divided along rooting lines. Andrew became a suffering Aston Villa fan at a young age and would often find himself the butt of jokes from his brother and sister, who supported the two Manchester clubs. As a family, they would religiously wake up for 7 a.m. Premier League games on Saturday mornings and then hit the fields later in the day to emulate their favorite players.
“When I was growing up, I played soccer more because I was small and my dad wouldn’t let me play football,” Scott says. “These guys have had their choice, and they always came back to soccer. They just loved it.”
This is a unique 21st century trend that’s only just beginning to catch fire in American families. The Brody family’s experience is commonplace in the game’s more fervent global corners, where soccer and life are indistinguishable apart from one another. And yet suddenly there are hundreds and thousands of families like the Brody’s, growing up with the game on television and having discernible paths to professional soccer.
In that sense the Brody’s represent the coming tide in America. A soccer-mad family from root to stem.
That goes for Megan as well. Orlando City unveiled its interconnected NWSL franchise this season and quickly signed USWNT icon Alex Morgan as its centerpiece. Megan is currently in Orlando City’s system, and the odds she’ll land on a college roster are considerably high. Given that she’s already in Orlando City’s system, her chances of one day being a professional soccer player like her brother have never been higher.
“It’s just so cool how everybody in my family has played and loves the game,” Megan says. “Ever since we were so young we’ve all played. It’s crazy how it’s come to today. My brother’s a professional and my other brother is going to college. Hopefully one day I’ll be a professional. It’s just so cool.”
For Scott, seeing Andrew score and - more to the point - fulfill a professional dream that was cut short for him has been something else. But seeing his entire family fall in love with the game the way he did has been the ultimate joy.
And it somehow all circles back to those backyard matches when the game descended on the Brody family like a warming blanket and never left again.
“When Megan would score, after the boys would say ‘Come on, what are you doing, we can’t let them win,’ they’d lift Megan up and say they were proud of her for using her left foot,” Scott says. “It’s that kind of stuff when you think back, those are the memories you cherish. It’s so easy for someone to say, ‘I remember when Eric scored the penalty to win this or that.’ That’s the easy stuff. But when you ask me about a specific memory, it’s when the four of us were together. It was something I’ll never forget.”