Brendan McDonough’s soccer career has taken him many places in the past four years.
He’s played for Charlotte Catholic, for Charlotte Soccer Academy, and with two German clubs – Freie Turnerschaft Braunschweig and Eintracht Braunschweig – for a six-month stint in 2013.
McDonough has committed himself to becoming the best soccer player no matter what sacrifices it may take.
The most difficult choices have come when McDonough was forced to choose between playing for Charlotte Catholic and for his CSA team after the U.S. Soccer Federation mandated a 10-month academy season after McDonough’s freshman year in high school.
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After initially picking Charlotte Catholic soccer over Academy his sophomore year (when he had 18 goals and was all-state), McDonough decided to play with CSA instead of the Cougars last season.
The journey has made McDonough’s return to the Charlotte Catholic team his senior year all the more special.
“It was really tough to pick between Catholic and the Academy, because you want to do both,” said McDonough, who has a 4.1 GPA and is fluent in German. “But after I committed to Georgetown University (in August 2013), my (future) coach Brian Wiese really wanted me to play at the highest level that I could.
“I really wanted to be able to play for Catholic my senior season, and I talked to coach Wiese about it and he understood me wanting to represent my school in my senior year.”
McDonough, 17, also worked out an arrangement in which he will go straight to playing for the Carolina Rapids U18 Academy team when Charlotte Catholic’s season is done.
For now, McDonough is having a season to remember, leading the team with 23 goals and 22 assists as a Charlotte Catholic co-captain.
The central midfielder/forward, who stands 6-foot-2 and 180 pounds, has six games this season in which he scored more than one goal, despite constantly being the focus of opposing defenses.
“Brendan has been working against a lot of defenses all year long, with just about every team game-planning to stop him,” said Charlotte Catholic coach Oscar Del Pino, who is 149-15-9 in his seven years as head coach. “But despite that attention, when he is at 100 percent, he is a marvel to behold on the field. He is so big and strong and such a complete array of skills and strengths that it is hard to game-plan against him, and it is hard to stop him.”
McDonough said he enjoys the challenge of the extra attention on the field.
“I’ve been hit more times this year than I ever have been in my life,” McDonough said. “But I love playing against the best competition, and I love high school soccer and how intense it is. I’m going to do whatever it takes to help my team win.”
While he has enjoyed his individual success, McDonough said he is more interested in his team’s success. Charlotte Catholic is 18-2-1 (13-1 SoMeck 8) and No. 1 in the state 4A coaches poll.
McDonough says all 11 senior starters also played together on the eighth-grade team at Holy Trinity, which won the middle school conference title that year. The group includes McDonough’s fellow captains, Sean Carlin, Chris Efenecy and Jack Miller; and Jordan Poff (12 goals and 15 assists), Benton Stockley (12 goals) and goalkeeper Sean Pratt (nine shutouts).
The combination of experience and talent has allowed Charlotte Catholic, winner of 14 of its past 15 games, to be playing its best soccer going into the playoffs after winning the SoMeck 8 conference championship.
After losing in the state finals to Cardinal Gibbons their freshmen year, in the state semifinals to Hickory their sophomore season and the state quarterfinals to Providence High last year, the seniors hope to finish their final season with a win.
Del Pino and McDonough say everyone knows the team’s ultimate goal. “It’s like the 900-pound gorilla in the room,” said Del Pino. “We haven’t addressed it directly, but everyone knows where we want to be. Our senior (class) especially is all business.”
“It’s kind of eerie because I don’t think anyone has said the word,” McDonough said. “But it’s a self-understood thing with guys we have here. Everyone knows we don’t want to finish with anything less (than a state title).”
For a player who has played worldwide, McDonough said, no matter how it ends, the journey back to Charlotte Catholic has been worth it.
“It’s so worth it that it’s incredible,” McDonough said. “There is something about the high school experience that you just can’t get anywhere else.”