Interview: New York City FC SuperDraft Pick Connor Brandt

On Thursday, New York City FC drafted in two talented college youngsters during the MLS SuperDraft, and the decisions have been widely accepted as both smart and a huge step in the future of the new franchise. Connor Brandt, New York’s second round pick and 23rd overall, impressed at the MLS Combine at left back, despite it not being the position he was widely praised for in his college days at the University of San Diego, and as a result was a second round favorite at the SuperDraft.

A versatile left midfielder very much able to play wing back if needed, and winner of the West Coast Conference’s Player of the Year for 2014 (with seven goals and six assists for the Californian college), it’s clear that Connor Brandt has the potential to really make an impact for Jason Kreis’ side this coming season. I had a chat with Brandt about his SuperDraft experience, his goals as a player, and more.

Ben Clarke (B.C.) : Firstly, congratulations on being picked up by New York City FC Connor. What was your reaction when your name was called out at the SuperDraft?

Connor Brandt (C.B.) : The initial reaction was obviously that this is a very exciting moment for my family and I. The chance to play in Major League Soccer is a dream come true really and I couldn’t have asked for a better place to go to begin my professional career.

B.C : What was your draft-day experience like? Did you have a lucky pair of socks or anything like that to calm your nerves?

C.B : I was watching the show from home with my headphones in listening to music the whole time to calm the nerves. I may have said a prayer or ten as well during it.

B.C : It seemed to have worked then!

C.B : Yes definitely worked. I actually received a text from my agent saying “congrats” before I even saw my name called as my computer was behind a bit. That was quite the relief.

B.C : For San Diego you were primarily a left midfielder, but I believe that at the Combine you were asked to play left back. How was it, trying to impress the scouts in a position that wasn’t necessarily your preferred?

C.B : Yeah, I have primarily been a left midfielder but I did have a few spells at left back in San Diego due to an injury to our normal left back, so there was a decent amount of familiarity with the position. My team at the Combine didn’t have a left back so I figured I’d hop in and prove that I could not only perform defensively but show I was capable of attacking out of that position too. I had some good spells in that position at the Combine.

B.C : The MLS Combine is, of course, where college soccer players seek to stand out from the crowd. Did you feel the atmosphere was very competitive or collaborative?

C.B : I felt the atmosphere was more competitive than collaborative. I was warned prior to the Combine this would maybe be the case as players are trying to stand out and maybe do more than they should at times. It’s only human nature I suppose. I took a different approach and tried to play simple and get others involved and it seemed to work well for me.

B.C : Did you have a meeting with NYCFC officials before the draft?

C.B : They were actually my first meeting. I was kind of nervous before but I’m glad they came first because Coach Jason Kreis and and Claudio Reyna made me feel welcome and the meeting was very easy going. It prepared me for the remaining meetings

B.C : Was the meeting more business-oriented or an informal chat?

C.B : Meeting was more just about personal life. Questions about family and where I grew up etc and then we discussed more of the soccer side at the end

B.C : When Mix Diskerud signed for NYCFC a few days ago, he said that he was extremely excited to live in the Big Apple. What are you looking forward to most about moving to New York?

C.B : I’m not too sure to be honest. I have never been to NY so I am not too sure what to expect. I am just excited to represent the people of New York. Their fans for all sports have been top notch and I look forward to being a part of that . One thing I’ve been told is that it can get very cold. I prefer to play in colder weather than hot weather so it will be a nice change. I would always hope for those cloudy days in San Diego during training!

B.C : Ideally, what role would you play in the coming season at New York City FC?

C.B : At this time I can’t answer that question . I just want to get in and meet the guys and get the ball rolling. I am willing to play any role Coach Kreis needs me at.

B.C : You’re an Arsenal fan. If you had to choose one, would you rather: Play for the USMNT, or play for the Gunners?

C.B : Yes I am a massive Arsenal fan, but I’d much rather play for the USMNT. I don’t think anything compares to playing on the international stage. The emotion and passion that goes into it is something that can’t be compared to. Especially now after the showing our boys put on this summer in Brazil. Americans are becoming more into the sport of soccer and it’s a great time for myself as well as other young players to get involved in the professional environment.

B.C : Which soccer player did you take the most inspiration from to shape your playing style?

C.B : Tough one that. Hard to say as I don’t want to come off the wrong way, but I suppose a player I have always admired is Mesut Özil, even before he came to Arsenal. He’s left footed and a player that can pick out a pass really well. I have always played in the midfield and I am a player that likes to find a pass for others to get onto. I always watch an Özil highlight video on game day to learn some things from him. I suppose now if my role changes into more of a left back position I’ll be watching Kieran Gibbs highlights prior to kick off .

B.C : What off-the-field interests do you have?

C.B : Well being from San Diego I very much enjoyed going to the beach. My friends and I would play foot volley on the volleyball courts . I also am very into different genres of music and dancing. I enjoy the usual hip hop and house music but also enjoy Latino music and Afrobeat and the dancing that comes with it……. I imagine you are familiar with Afro beat being from the UK?

B.C : I’ve heard of it, but as I’m from the ‘Northern Ireland’ part of the UK, I’d be more likely to hear Celtic folk songs than Afrobeat.

* Connor proceeds to send me a link to some Afrobeat music – it’s not what I’m used to, but it makes me want to dance. I try to resist, as I have an interview to do. *

C.B : Yea it’s African influenced. Typically Nigerian and Ghanian. “Fuse ODG” is the top artist right now at the mo. He’s a Ghanian lad.

B.C : Anyway, which NYCFC player do you look most forward to playing with?

C.B : I suppose the obvious answer to most would be to play with world class players such as David Villa and Lampard. It’ll be a very nice experience to play with them and learn some things. I’m also looking forward to playing with the other NYCFC draft pick, Khiry Shelton. He had a very successful college career and it will be nice to go in and work together to help each other adapt in the professional environment .

B.C : Lastly, is there anything you’d like to say to New York City FC fans?

C.B : Just that I am excited to be a part of the wonderful experience of NYCFC’s first season and I am glad to represent the fans here. I am here to work hard and play any role when called upon to make this year a success. ‘Success’ meaning a playoff birth to start with. Once we are there, more goals can be set.

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