MLSsoccer.com continues its look back at the stars, personalities and cult heroes who made Major League Soccer what it is today. Our third annual “What Ever Happened To..." series rolls on with Project-40 original and former Columbus Crew speedster Brian West.
Where He Was Then
They say you can’t teach speed. And Brian West was exceptionally gifted in that department. An All-American at the University of Virginia, the LaGrange, Ga., native was one of the first players signed to a Project-40 contract – the precursor to Generation adidas – back in 1998.
It took him a few seasons to hit his stride, but by 2000, West broke out, scoring six goals and adding six assists for the Columbus Crew. Through six seasons in MLS, he totaled 18 goals and 19 assists in 132 regular-season contests (99 of them starts), helped Columbus win the 2002 US Open Cup and also earned seven caps with the US national team.
In 2004, he moved to Norwegian side Fredrikstad and enjoyed four seasons there – winning a Norwegian Cup in 2006, appearing in the UEFA Cup and becoming an unlikely fan favorite – but injuries gradually started to reduce his availability and eventually, his level of effectiveness. He finished his career in Norway with 13 goals and 13 assists in 67 league contests for FFK.
Where He Is Now
Where’s the first place you expect to see a kid with roots in the Deep South spending his post-playing career? Working in IT and spending his down time skiing, of course. Now 34, West is still living in frosty Norway – and loving every minute of it.
"It's definitely a different world," he chuckles by phone from Oslo.
West says his time spent growing up in Maryland and his many years in Ohio helped prepare him somewhat for the weather conditions.
"It's still colder here,” he readily admits, “but you get used to it.”
When he arrived at FFK in 2004, West never expected to stay. But as things often go for single players who move abroad, he found a good reason: He married a Norwegian woman and now has a young son.
The Wests’ home in the Norwegian capital is about 50 miles north of his old Fredrikstad Stadion stomping grounds. And because of the climate and topography, it comes as little surprise to hear how the once fleet-footed West keeps his need for speed burning.
"I ski now," he says. "I'm getting pretty good, but I'm not as good as the Norwegians. I'm pretty comfortable going down the slopes, and now I'm trying to become comfortable off the slopes. In the wintertime, we rent a cabin in the mountains. We're up there about every other weekend."
After his final Fredrikstad season in 2007, West almost immediately put his college diploma to use by going into the IT sector. He’s currently working for an Oslo-based financial-services consultancy, where he is a senior manager. Last September, he took on a second post at Norway-based Santander Consumer Bank.
When it's time to fly over to America for a visit, West and the brood prefer a locale that's far more tropical: his parents’ vacation home in Florida.
As such, he rarely gets to see his old MLS teammates and foes. They'll talk on the phone from time to time, but life in Norway has both literally and figuratively taken him far away from the league where his pro career started.
"I usually don't get to see the games, but I follow it in the paper," says West. "It's grown quite a bit into a much better league. It's good to see some of the guys I played with are now head coaches, like Benny Olsen and Caleb Porter. That's fun."
What They Said
"On the personal side, no one was more positive. When he came into the locker room, he was always smiling and very much a guy you wanted to have around. Then he stepped on the field and added a different dynamic, at least for us. He had pace and agility. Things like that are such great intangibles, especially early on in the league. He was an energizer and I loved playing with him."
– Brian McBride, former Columbus teammate