Former Kitsap Pumas forward, Bryan Burke, was named the 2015 USL Defender of the Year for his outstanding play at outside back for Eastern Conference finalist Louisville City FC.
After joining Louisville for their inaugural season, Burke played a key role at both ends of the field as he led the USL with 10 assists and also played a vital part in a defense that conceded only 35 goals in 28 regular season games.
In addition to his excellent offensive production, Burke’s durability was also tested as he featured in all 28 regular season games for Louisville leaving him tied in most minutes played among all outfield players. Louisville would finish the regular season second in the Eastern Conference with a record of 14-8-6 before ultimately losing 1-0 to the Rochester Rhinos in the playoffs in the Eastern Conference Final.
While Burke burst into the USL national spotlight this past season his passion for the game began at a much younger age. Growing up in Corona del Mar, California Burke began playing AYSO with his friends at the age of five. “That is where it all started for me,” Burke said. “As I grew up my favorite thing about the game became working with a close group of friends and working together throughout the week to prepare for the next game and putting the final product on the field and getting a win.”
Burke continued to follow his passion for the game as he attended the University of San Fransisco (USF) for four years. During that time was when he truly began to see the potential for himself to play at the professional level.
“I always wanted to play professionally but didn’t actually see it as a reality until my sophomore year of college,’ said Burke. “That’s when I started to cut things out of my life that I thought were going to hold me back from reaching that goal of becoming a professional.”
However, when he went undrafted after his final collegiate season at USF, Burke found himself questioning if he should even continue to pursue his dream of becoming a professional player.
“Once I finished playing in college and didn’t get drafted I wasn’t sure I was going to keep playing,” said Burke. “It was actually my mom who saw a tryout for the Kitsap Pumas and she was the one who put me in contact with the coach Pete Fewing.”
His decision to play for Kitsap payed off as he helped lead the Pumas to the 2011 PDL National Championship and was named MVP of the finals in the process. In addition to all the positive memories with his teammates off the field, Kitsap also gave Burke the development and exposure he needed to go on to play in the USL for the LA Blues the following season.
“My favorite thing about playing for Kitsap was undoubtedly winning the PDL Championship,” said Burke. “I’d say it is still one of my most memorable years playing both on and off the field. That season definitely prepared me for the next level and left me wanting to continue to play and make a serious career out of soccer.”
Following his first season in the USL with the Blues, Burke had trials with MLS sides such as Sporting Kansas City and the San Jose Earthquakes before eventually signing with the 2014 regular season USL champion and now MLS side Orlando City FC.
While in Orlando, Burke featured for the club 15 times scoring twice and creating four assists before suffering a season-ending injury against the Charleston Battery.
“As most players know soccer has a lot of ups and downs, from not making teams to not getting playing time, but for me the hardest thing I have ever dealt with was breaking my leg and having to sit out for 13 months,” said Burke. “I remember having to just sit and watch every training and that gave me the motivation to do everything I could to get back.”
Although Burke suffered a horrific injury that would hinder the performance of most professionals long after the broken bone healed, Burke instead came back even stronger than before his injury. Not only did he finish tied for most minutes played in the entire league for an outfield player but he was also the USL Assist Leader, was named to the USL All-League FirstTeam and was awarded the USL Defender of the Year.
Burke surely serves as a positive role model for anyone faced with adversity, especially any young player who wants to be a professional like him one day.
“My advice to any young players that want to become professionals is that it's not easy and you need to make a lot of sacrifices to help yourself get to the next level but once you get there all the sacrifices you made will be well worth it! Keep chasing your dreams!”