University City

Charlotte 49er Brandt Bronico on Hermann Trophy watch list

UNC Charlotte soccer player Brandt Bronico is considered to be among the nation’s best collegiate players.
UNC Charlotte soccer player Brandt Bronico is considered to be among the nation’s best collegiate players. dtfoster@charlotteobserver.com

About five minutes into the second half of Charlotte’s home opener against Gardner-Webb on Sept. 7, junior Brandt Bronico displayed some of the magnificence that justifies his placement on the watch list for the Hermann Trophy, which is awarded annually to the best men’s college soccer player in the country.

With the 49ers clinging to a 1-0 lead, Bronico took control of the ball on the left side of the goal near the perimeter of the penalty area and turned a one-on-one situation against a defender into a personal clinic on ball possession.

Over the next couple seconds, Bronico switched feet several times as he dribbled to his right, denying the defender any chance of disrupting his play. Catching a seam between himself and the goal, Bronico zipped a right-footed shot to the back-right of the net.

“That’s a high level, professional-level play,” said Charlotte’s fourth-year head coach Kevin Langan. “There’s no goalie in the world who can save that. That’s a great play.”

After opening the season with two shutout losses on the road against ranked opponents, including No. 1 Virginia, the defending national champion, Charlotte was desperate for some offense. Bronico obliged against Gardner-Webb, scoring on his highlight reel goal and assisting on two others as the 49ers captured their first victory of the season.

Bronico, a midfielder, is one of two 49ers players on the preseason watch list for the Hermann Trophy. Senior forward Kyle Parker, a semifinalist for the award last season, was a Conference USA Co-Offensive MVP in 2014.

Bronico also put up impressive numbers for his position. In his second season as a full-time starter, Bronico scored five goals and added six assists, which helped him get named to the C-USA all-Conference team.

His knack for scoring game-winning goals last season drew even more attention. Bronico netted game-winners against no. 5 New Mexico and no. 22 Wake Forest, and Florida Atlantic.

“I try to explain to the scouts that call up that he has the quantity because he’s around the game all the time,” said Langan. “He has the energy and the fitness to always be moving around the game. That’s very rare in a player.

“You put him in the final third (of the field) and he has the touch, the ability, and the pace to get separation, and he has quality on his shot. That’s what makes him a special player.”

Langan said he’s not surprised Bronico has turned into a nationally recognized player. A High Point native, Bronico was highly decorated at Wesleyan Christian Academy and as a player for the N.C. Fusion USSF academy team.

Bronico models his play after his favorite international player, midfielder Eden Hazard. They share the same No. 10 uniform number.

As a right-footed dominant player locked into the left side of the field, Bronico’s skill set allows him to compensate. His amazing goal against Gardner-Webb proves he’s capable of scoring from anywhere.

“I’m pretty strong with both feet,” said Bronico. “I’m comfortable using both. I’m not that uncomfortable playing on the left. I can put in a cross with my left (foot) or cut into it with my right either way.”

Bronico and the 49ers have their sights set on winning another C-USA championship and want to vie for a national championship.

Charlotte next plays at William & Mary on Sept. 15. The 49ers open conference play on Sept. 19 with a home game versus Old Dominion.

Notes

Former Providence High star Ellie Deaver scored Charlotte’s only goal, her first as a 49er, in the team’s loss to nationally ranked South Carolina on Sept. 7. Charlotte won four of its first six games, led by sophomore Martha Thomas’ six goals and two assists.

Joe Habina is a freelance writer: joehabina@yahoo.com.

Upcoming events

Sept. 13

  • Men’s golf, at Gopher Invitational, Independence, Minn., 9 a.m.
  • Women’s soccer vs. East Carolina, Transamerica Field, 2 p.m.

Sept. 14

  • Men’s golf, at Gopher Invitational, Independence, Minn., 9 a.m.

Sept. 15

  • Men’s soccer, at William & Mary, 7 p.m.Sept. 18Volleyball, vs. Furman, Halton Arena, 6 p.m.
  • Men’s and women’s cross country, at William and Mary Invitational, TBA
  • Men’s tennis, Charlotte Invitational, Halton-Wagner Tennis Complex, All day
  • Women’s tennis, at College of Charleston Invitational, TBA

Sept. 19

  • Men’s soccer, vs. Old Dominion, Transamerica Field, 7 p.m.
  • Football, at Middle Tennessee, 7 p.m.
  • Men’s tennis, Charlotte Invitational, Halton-Wagner Tennis Complex, All day
  • Women’s tennis, at College of Charleston Invitational, TBA

Sept. 20

  • Men’s golf, at Rees Jones Invitational, Daufuskie Island, S.C., 9 a.m.
  • Women’s soccer at Elon, 6 p.m.
  • Men’s tennis, Charlotte Invitational, Halton-Wagner Tennis Complex, All day
  • Women’s tennis, at College of Charleston Invitational, TBA

Courtesy: Charlotte49ers.com

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