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Keeperstop.com had the pleasure catching up with Bryan Meredith from the Seattle Sounders in the MLS. Meredith is from Scotch Plains, New Jersey and led little-known Monmouth University for three seasons. Drafted in the second round of the MLS SuperDraft, he gained praise for his ability to organize his defense, handle crosses into the box and play with the ball at his feet.
Q: What made you decide to play GK? How old were you?
A: The recreational team in 3rd grade needed a goalkeeper so I was thrown in there and, surprisingly, I really enjoyed it so it stuck from there.
Q: When did you start focusing on the craft of goalkeeping?
A: As soon as I was thrown into the goal, I knew I wanted to go pro it was my dream. From there, I started focusing on ways to get better each and every day.
Q: How did playing for PDA help you prepare for playing collegiately, and ultimately, the professional level?
A: It was one of the highest level clubs in the country, we were always playing the best teams, best competition, great coaches, and great individual GK training. That combination prepared me day in and day out for getting used to competing every time we step on the field.
Q: What is the main advice for young PDA players and GKs?
A: Trust the club, the kids are in great hands with the coaches, they have so much experience grooming players and know what there doing. Specifically, the GK's at PDA should focus on making it to the GK training sessions and focus on their technique. Shaping and perfecting your technique at an early age is vital as you develop physically and ajust to the increase in level of play.
Q: In your teen years did you spend time training on your own, without a coach or a team?
A: Absolutely. That is one of the things that set me apart from my competition growing up. While other friends were going out to movies and hanging out, I was playing in the front yard, working on my footwork and ball handling skills. As a result, I feel that one of my biggest assets is having good ball control as a keeper, and my backs have no problem playing the ball to my feet. That goes a long way in terms of building trust with my teammates.
Q: Who was your coaching mentor when you were developing as a goalkeeper?
A: My GK coach at PDA Paul Blodgett was the main man. He was really my first experience with a GK coach and he was vital in setting the foundation, both in terms of training programs but also the mental aspect of the position. At at young age I was not as focused on the mental side of the game, but as I got older and achieved higher levels, those early lessons certainly kicked in.
Q: What goalkeeper camps did you attend growing up?
A: I didn’t travel much for the “name” camps across the country so I spent a lot of time at the local high school camps. I felt so comfortable with the level of training I was getting during my club practices that I did not stray too far from them.
Q: You spent 4 years playing at Monmouth University - what was the most difficult experience you had at MU?
A: I got very limited playing time freshman year and that was something I was not used to. I had been used to playing week in and week out with my club team, so getting to college and training all week with no match on the weekend was tough. I put in my time and hard work and eventually became the starter my sophomore year it was all worth it. Getting to observe and learn for a year was actually a blessing in disguise I think. In addition to playing time, MU was such a small school and relatively unknown across the country so we tended to get overlooked which was frustrating. We were winning a lot of games and putting up some very good numbers but it never seemed to be enough. We always felt a little underappreciated. However, the team rallied around this fact and used it as inspiration to keep working hard. Eventually, we made people notice.
Q: What was your most memorable moment in college?
A: First round win over UCONN in the NCAA tournament. UCONN is one of the more storied teams in the country so taking them to PKs and winning finally put us on the map. Making a vital save in the shootout didn’t hurt either
Q: What are you most proud of from your collegiate career?
A: For me personal stats don't matter it's about the team, and we had some fantastic teams and put up some great performances. That being said, having some nationally ranked individual stats and seeing my name ranked up there in the top 5 was pretty cool.
Q: What was your biggest tool in reaching the professional level?
A: As the possibility of reaching the professional ranks got closer, my college coach Rob McCourt helped me navigate through tough times and really talked me through the process. Rob was great but I still look back and draw on a lot of the little lessons that all of my coaches shared from a young age. With all of those little lessons put together, I have a really good knowledge base from which to draw. I’m so appreciative of all of the lessons that I try to stay in touch with each coach to this day.
Q: You talked a little bit earlier about how Monmouth was smaller school and relatively unknown - how did you end up in the Northeast Conference and Monmouth University?
A: I committed real early, like mid way through my junior year of high school. I knew I didn't want to go to a big school far from home, and I knew Coach McCourt through my time at PDA and ODP. In addition, I knew other good players who were committing there and together we all wanted the same thing - to build the MU name while improving individually. It was a unique opportunity because there was not much of a transition to college, off of the field, because I was so familiar and comfortable with a lot of the players and the coaching staff.
Q: Going into college what were some of your strengths – basically the differentiator that set you apart from other GKs your age?
A: I think a lot of the GKs I knew around my age were very good athletes, but not necessarily solid GKs. I, too, felt my athleticism was a strength, but what I feel really set me apart was the fact that I made it a point to train my weaknesses IN extra sessions with my teammates and coaches. That work ethic and desire to polish my weaknesses set me apart. I felt that a lot of my competitors chose to train their strengths because they were “good at them” but neglected their weaknesses. As such, it resulted in a lot of unbalanced GKs.
Q: How did you evolve as a goalkeeper from your freshman year of college to your senior year? What weaknesses turned into strengths?
A: Going into college I thought I was a well-rounded GK. However, once on campus I realized that the speed of the game could not be compensated for by general athleticism. My confidence coming off of my line was a bit shaky so that was something I made it a point to work on during my time at Monmouth. To help build that confidence, I drew on my strength in communicating with my back four. They became comfortable with me and I became comfortable behind them. As such, that comfort resonated to other areas of my game.
Q: You were invited to participate in the MLS combine - what was the combine like? Where you nervous? How did you prepare?
A: Well, I wasn’t sure If I was going to be invited or not, which I think was actually good for me because when I did get invited, I was a really nervous! I was able to settle down a bit after realizing that I got invited because I really did belong and deserve to be there. From that point I focused on staying positive and enjoying the process, rather than worrying about little things that were out of my control. Again, this was one of the key moments I was able to draw on lessons I picked up from my various coaches.
Q: You grew up and played basically your whole life in NJ and then you are drafted by Seattle - describe what it was like being drafted and moving across the country to the west coast.
A: I had a choice, and I chose Seattle because it was one of the best soccer cities in the country, and there I had a unique experience to train every day with Kasey Keller. It’s easy to say Kasey is one of the best American GK's of all time, but having the opportunity to train with him every day was not one to pass up. Moving to the west coast was a little bit of a shock, and I had a bumpy road at the beginning but I got through that through supportive teammates, coaches and friends. The key was really focusing on training and not letting any off-field issues into my head while I was on the field.
Q: You recently played in front of your hometown fans when the Sounders visited the Red Bulls – describe some of your emotions during that road trip.
A: I was very excited to go home. I was excited to play in front of a pretty sizable contingent of friends and family, they hadn't seen me play live for a long time. Again, it was vital to keep those emotions separate from my on-field preparations. We ended up drawing so it was nice to get points on the road, but a win in front of my friends and family would have been fantastic.
Q: How much training time would you say you have put in to make it to the professional level?
A: A lot, a lot, a lot. I cant even begin to estimate the number of hours I’ve spent training. I’ve basically played 5-6 days per week since I was a young teenager and then when you add in the off-field work in the weight room, I don’t have enough fingers to keep track! I don’t think there is necessarily a number of hours young players should strive to achieve, but rather focus on constantly looking to improve your game. You can’t train for 6 hours each day because your body simply cannot handle it. Look for different ways to improve your individual game. Study game film. Watch games on TV and evaluate strengths and weaknesses of the players on TV. Read books about how other players found success. You don’t necessarily need to implement their plan, but it may inspire you to try something new that you wouldn’t have necessarily thought of.
Q: You talked a little bit about the opportunity to train under Kasey Keller – talk about that a little bit. What were some of his lessons that you were able to pick up?
A: He was awesome to train and watch. I picked up a lot of little nuances but especially on how to be a good professional. Even though he was at the end of his career he worked his butt off every day at training and acted like nothing was handed to him. He came to train each and every day to EARN the #1 spot, and that made the rest of us work that much harder to keep up with him. Off the field he was great. He’s been around the block and seen so much that just getting to be a part of his circle on the road was a real honor.
Q: What would you say is the hardest about playing Pro? What about the most fun?
A: The hardest aspect of playing pro so far is the travel of the MLS schedule. I was used to staying somewhat local for games in college but MLS is another world. Sometimes we have 3 games per week so travel plus training takes a toll on your body. I wouldn’t say there is one thing that is the most fun about being a professional, but every once in a while I take a step back and realize that my “job” is to play a game every day and I don’t think there is a better job in the world! That emotion makes all of the practice and hard work worth it.
Q: If you could break down the percentages you focus on certain skills during the week:
A: Basic warm-up and sessions really depend on what you or the coaches feel you need to work on that week or something maybe you need to touch up, so no two sessions are the same. If I had to put a number, it’d look something like this:
Handling and Ready Position - 40% - this is a lot of maintenance and getting a feel for the ball, as opposed making drastic changes
Crossed balls 25% - there is a strong element of aerial play in this league so getting reps is key
Distribution 25% - GKs need to be able to play with their feet these days – so many can’t so this part of training is vital
Through Balls, Breakaways, and Vertical Positioning - 10%;
Q: Best thing about being a GK?
A: At the risk of sounding like a typical GK, the answer is always going to be not having to run a lot! The truth is, GKs need to be physically fit and cardio plays a major role in that. However, it’s a different type of cardio! I love being in a position to make or break a game and cover for teammates.
Q: Most interesting place you’ve played?
A: I got to play in Bolivia for a high school tournament once that was pretty cool. I’ve become somewhat used to it, but playing in front of almost 40,000 fans each week in Seattle still takes the cake. The passion they have for the team and their involvement in the game is unrivaled anywhere in the MLS.
Q: Best Save? Best Moment?
A: In PKs against UCONN I made an upper 90 save that helped put us through. The spotlight was on and I was lucky to get a hand to the shot and put us in a position to win. The save in conjunction with the moment and it’s meaning was fantastic. It’s also been really cool to say that I’ve saved shots from some soccer icons like Thierry Henry, David Beckham and so on, but the meaning of the save against UCONN was unmatched thus far in my career.
Q: What are your favorite goalkeeper training drills?
A: The easy - soccer tennis or keep up. I like being able to mix in with the guys and show that I can hold my own with them. In terms of the GK-specific stuff – the stuff the field players cannot do – I enjoy combination exercises where there are multiple aspects of a rep: fielding a cross, distributing and getting set for different types of shots. It’s a little bit more game realistic and I get to work on multiple aspects of my game at once.
Q: Advice for aspiring goalkeepers to overcome failures or mistakes during games?
A: Biggest thing is to not let them get to you and move past them right away. Make the next save - easy or hard - because that’s the most important one. It will get you back on track and refocused. Mistakes will happen but the key is learning from it and getting past it as quickly as you can.
You can read more about Bryan Meredith and his success with the Seattle Sounders by following the links below: