July 30, 2013
By Jeff Piascik
STORRS, Conn. - Boiled down to its core, soccer is a game of teamwork. Success comes not from the actions of one or two players, but is achieved from the collective effort of all 11 players on the field. Selflessness is an inherent characteristic among the players who step out onto the grass of Joseph J. Morrone Stadium, and as University of Connecticut redshirt senior Colin Bradley knows, sometimes the most important plays of the game go unrecognized on the stat sheet.
Bradley, a West Hartford, Conn. native, enters the 2013 as the longest-tenured player on the men's soccer roster, having started all 67 games for the Huskies since the 2010 season, after redshirting in 2009. He has been a staple of the Husky defense and logged 1,839 minutes at the midfield position last season under 17th-year head coach Ray Reid. For the in-state product, the 2013 season represents a chance for him to go out as a champion in his final season.
"It was always a goal for me to come here and play soccer one day," said the 6'2" midfielder. "Now that I've been here for a few years I want to help this team win a championship. I remember coming to campus when I was younger and looking up to all the guys playing. It would be an honor to put our team in the history books with them."
Midfield is a challenging position because it requires a unique combination of athleticism, instinct, and an unrelenting ability to sacrifice individual acknowledgement. Often at the conclusion of games there are no tangible statistics that pop off the page for those who play the midfield position. Thus, for Bradley his work often gets underappreciated by those who are not familiar with the game. But within the UConn locker room there is no shortage of appreciation for the veteran and what he brings to the team on and off the field.
"He is one of our senior leaders," said Reid. "He's started every game that he's been here for. He's an unsung hero of the team. He often does the dirty work without getting any of the credit. He's so even-keeled and just a truly super kid."
"He's a key player for our team," said senior forward Mamadou Doudou Diouf , who has played with Bradley since 2010. "He works so unbelievably hard to help us. He plays every single game and he makes a difference for us. The midfield position is so important to our team and Colin puts forth his best effort every game. I owe so much to him for all he's done. He doesn't care about showing up in the stats, he cares about winning. He's the kind of teammate that makes playing the game special."
Fittingly, when asked about his defensive prowess, Bradley took the opportunity to credit his teammates around him and shied away from talking about individual accomplishments.
"I'm not here to score goals or to take recognition away from our team," Bradley said. "I'm trying to win. I want to help my teammates because that means we're going to have a better chance of getting a victory. I think that's what this program is all about. It's about the team. We are all a part of this."
Winning for Bradley and his teammates means stepping up in the postseason, where Connecticut has stumbled a bit in the past two years. The Huskies saw each of the past two seasons end in the NCAA Quarterfinals, with the most recent 1-0 loss coming to Creighton on December 2nd, 2012, when the Husky defense allowed a late goal with just 1:30 remaining in regulation.
The loss was especially painful because Connecticut outplayed Creighton for much of the second half before giving up the eventual game winner. Bradley admitted that the defeat stung for quite some time, but he still has confidence that his team can get over the recent tournament slump.
"It has been two years in a row where we have gone down in the quarterfinals," Bradley said. "We've got the experience and talent to get to that spot again and now we just need to rise up and overcome the challenge. If we can get over that challenge and get over this hump, I think we could be in for a pretty special year."
One of the positives that came out of the tournament loss was that it brought the team closer together. In fact, the healing process acted as a uniting force and allowed Reid, who has the reputation of being a tough coach on his players, to use the experience as a learning tool for his squad.
"He just loves this team so much and just wants the best for everyone," said Bradley. Losing is always tough, especially when you've been to the top like he has but I think that he will use it to help us this season. His coaching style is a little different, but in the end I wouldn't have wanted another coach during my time here."
With exhibition games slated to start in less than three weeks (Aug. 18), Bradley is prepared to embark on his final campaign in Storrs. If all goes well, he could end his collegiate career as a champion and distinguish himself as one of the most reliable players in recent years. But for Bradley, it will always be about the team.