Brandon Vincent, Stanford 2015

The biggest stars in college soccer are beginning their professional careers this week, as a group of 60 of the best players from the NCAA ranks are set to convene in Fort Lauderdale, Florida for the 2016 adidas MLS Player Combine.

Stanford defender Brandon Vincent will be in attendance in South Florida, and the projected first rounder spoke to about life on and off the field as he prepares for the SuperDraft on January 14.

Vincent co-captained the Stanford team

that won the 2015 NCAA Men’s College Cup, the first national title in program history:

“Getting to make that history and being the first team to ever do it [at Stanford] was huge for us, because you know it’s kind of all of our goals finally coming to a head and finally accomplishing something that we’d been focused on working towards since our freshman year.”

As co-captain, Vincent got to lift the trophy

… after Stanford beat Clemson in the final:

“It was kind of surreal. We’d obviously never done it before, so we don’t know what’s going on and it’s just you get the trophy and it’s just like you finally get a tangible thing to kind of put on everything that you’ve been working for your whole career. Getting to do that in front of my family and friends and all of my teammates, lifting the trophy with [co-captain Ty Thompson], it was a cool feeling.”

The title run wasn’t without its hiccups

… as Stanford survived an epic shootout against Akron in the Final Four, just a week after squeaking past Wake Forest in extra time – a game in which Vincent missed a penalty:

“I think with any winning team there’s always a bit of luck somewhere along the road, and I think we got ours in that Akron shootout. They hit one off the post, I mean I thought it was going in when I saw him hit it, and it came off and I was like ‘Oh my gosh [laughs].’ Getting that I think was kind of our first bit of luck that whole tournament, really. That kind of gave us that chance to keep going. And obviously for me against Wake, that PK was tough.

“When I stepped up I didn’t feel like, I mean obviously there was a lot of pressure going into it, but I’d done it before so I didn’t think too much of it. I just tried to hit it hard and put it on target, which obviously the second part I didn’t do. Immediately after I was kind of like ‘Did I just let the team down? I don’t really want this to end on my shoulders like this,’ and I guess as soon as I got out of the box I was like ‘Alright, we’ve got to get back in it.’ And luckily [forward Foster Langsdorf] was able to put away the winner a few minutes later. That was a huge relief for me. I was just so happy just thanking him, saying ‘thank you, thank you.’

Adept at getting forward

… from his left back position, finishing his career with 13 goals (he took the Cardinal’s penalty kicks for part of his career) and three assists in 80 games:

“I think my biggest strength is adapting to whatever situation I’m in. If I have the chance to get forward I love to do that, and get up and down the wing and get crosses off, get shots off. If that’s not on during the game then I’m happy to stay back and do my job defensively, making sure the opposing team doesn’t get their own shots on goal and doesn’t give the ‘keeper a hard time. I love to get forward when I have the chance to, but I’m not afraid to defend and I won’t shy away from that.”

Often compared to a pair of successful MLSers

… and attempting to model himself off of one legendary left back recently linked to the league:

“Watching the EPL growing up, I think that I can play similar to like an Ashley Cole type. That’s who I’d like to model myself after, kind of an attacking fullback who shuts down the opponent but then also gets forward and creates chances. I think kind of as I’ve gotten older and kind of realized my own skillset, I think like guys directly in MLS that I’ve heard people compare me to is like an Andrew Farrell or a Sean Franklin kind of player. That’s obviously really, really cool to be compared to guys like that, who have done well so far.”

A 2015 first-team All-American

… and the two-time Pac-12 Defender of the Year, Vincent was honored last season for his work in the classroom, when he was named the 2015 Pac-12 men’s soccer Scholar-Athlete of the Year:

“It’s awesome to get that recognition. I know a lot of the guys on the team work just as hard or even harder than me, so when I got it I was like ‘Wow, I didn’t even know.’ So it’s cool to get recognized for the hard work you put in off the field because it’s a huge part of our lives, a huge part of our college career.

“We go to class and we go to practice and that’s pretty much it, that’s kind of our lives. Being able to get recognized for both of those is really cool, just to see the hard work paying off.”

One of just 23 Stanford student-athletes majoring in econ

… as of this summer, and recently completed his degree, wrapping his studies two quarters early:

“Obviously my main focus has been on trying to play, but I think that if that didn’t work out the typical track that most people go into from econ is into finance or consulting, something like that. I think I would’ve followed somewhere along that track if I wasn’t going after a soccer career.”

Took in pre-Combine advice from Stanford alums

… who play in MLS, including from San Jose Earthquakes Adam Jahn and J.J. Koval:

“The guys that graduated like Adam Jahn and J.J., they come around, they play for the Quakes so they’re right around the corner from us, so they’d be around a lot over the years and kind of give us pointers on how things are done, the ways of the professional game. And obviously going to the Combine, they’ve had their pitch for us … I know they just talked about making sure your recovery is on point and that you’re doing everything you can to make sure you’re as prepared as possible for the next game.”

Grew up attending the occasional LA Galaxy game

… as a Southern California native:

“I went to a couple Galaxy games when I was younger, got to see Cobi Jones and Landon Donovan play, which was awesome … It wasn’t anything super serious, it was just kind of fun to be there and play soccer and be around the stadium. As I’ve gotten older, it’s just seeing who’s who on the field, but not like a specific team that I support or anything like that.”

Spent 3 years matching up with USMNT F Jordan Morris

… every day in practice:

“Oh man, I’m trying to think here, I think we both have gotten our fair share in our battles with each other. He’s obviously a great player, world-class player, so getting the chance to go against him is a chance for me to get better. I like to challenge myself and make things difficult for him. He’s fast, he’s strong, he’s good on the ball so I think he definitely gets the better of me sometimes, but some days it’ll be the opposite.”