RYAN BACIC - Monday, July 16, 2012
From the Fighting Irish to the land of true Irishmen: former Notre Dame wide midfielder Brendan King has latched on at Bray Wanderers.
No one would blame you for guessing otherwise, but King noted that despite his recent move and his college mascot, he does not actually have any real Irish ancestry to speak of.
Nonetheless, the Emerald Isles would already appear to feel like home to the 22 year-old.
"Everything's been going really well here. I've really enjoyed it so far," King told YA from Ireland. "Bray is a nice town, it's a small town. Everyone associated with the club has been great so far."
The Illinois native is not the first American in recent years to have been attracted to the East Ireland seaside. Colin Vint, a University of Richmond product, likewise played for Bray back in 2006.
King took a bit of a roundabout path before he similarly landed with the Seagulls, beginning with choosing the more controversial route in American soccer circles by spending four years in South Bend.
"College soccer [may not be] the ideal place to be if you want to be a professional soccer player," King acknowledged, "but I think I was lucky to be in a program where they do treat it like a professional environment."
With former Scotland international Bobby Clark at the helm, that should come as no real surprise. During Clark's 11 seasons with the Irish, an impressive 18 players have been selected in the MLS SuperDraft. But despite being taken by the Timbers with the 27th pick in this year's draft, King failed to make the roster in Portland and was forced to look elsewhere.
It wouldn't be a long wait before his first call, though, as he was almost immediately contacted by Dublin's Shamrock Rovers. In the end, the club decided that its roster did not have room for another winger, but the people at Shamrock put in a good word for King at Bray. He signed with the club last week and now has a fair opportunity to prove himself.
"If you kind of look at the league on the surface, you might get the assumption that it's not a great league," King prefaced, pointing to the quality of the facilities. "But the standard of play is actually quite good.
"It's a fast-paced league, it's pretty physical, and a lot of guys here get pretty good exposure to other leagues in Europe, namely in the U.K. but elsewhere in Europe as well."
His sights, then, appear to ultimately be set on the higher divisions of Europe, and though their family tree may be lacking in Irish branches, the King family is no stranger to the old continent: Brendan's father grew up in England after moving there from the U.S. at a young age.
As a result, King grew up a Manchester United fan, and his teenage dreams of big-time soccer drove him to residency and a spot on the U.S. team for the 2007 U-17 World Cup.That experience, which King called "a huge honor," led to the development of some close friendships, notably with fellow American midfielder Jared Jeffrey of Mainz 05 in the Bundesliga.
That World Cup in South Korea gave King a taste of the pinnacle of his sport, and if one successful season leads to another, maybe one day he'll get back to that point. For now, however, he's just living in the moment.
"I've just kind of been taking in each game as it comes, just enjoying it [and] getting as much out of it as I can," said King. "I want to use the opportunity that's been given to me and take it with both hands."
Currently standing in ninth place out of 12 teams in the League of Ireland Premier Division, Bray could certainly use a boost from their newly-signed ND alum. King made his first appearance for the club in Saturday's hard-fought 1-1 draw at league leaders Sligo Rovers F.C, coming on to replace forward Jason Byrne in the 87th minute.
The fact that Bray manager Keith Long would insert King into such a tense situation on the road right off the bat seems to be a good sign.
And with a lot of hard work and a little Luck of the Irish, it might just be the first of many.