Brad Stuver Austin

Austin FC goalkeeper Brad Stuver began his career in MLS’s most nomadic role. Now, he’s found a city and team where he belongs. And he’s making sure Austin knows just how grateful he is.

CF Montréal (then the Impact) selected Stuver as the 32nd pick in the 2013 MLS Superdraft after playing four seasons at Cleveland State University. But they didn’t offer him a contract. Instead, they made Maxime Crepeau the club’s fourth-ever homegrown signing – and thus began a theme of Stuver losing out on playing time to 'keepers that even now have a little more brand recognition.

Stuver did get a contract out of it, at least, becoming league’s pool goalkeeper and essentially living on call for every MLS team should they need a backup in hardship cases.

Stuver played for four teams that year, showing up just in case Chivas USA, New England, Columbus or Real Salt Lake stumbled into a worst-case scenario. None ever did.

Even after earning a contract with the Crew the following year, Stuver, stuck behind Steve Clark at first and Zack Steffen next, had to wait until 2016 for his first MLS minutes. And they were minutes he’d probably like to have back. Across two starts, Stuver allowed seven goals, ending his stint for Columbus.

In 2018, he went to NYCFC. There he was stuck behind Sean Johnson and received a few more opportunities for playing time, but not many. The few that came resulted in improvement from his outings in Columbus. Not much, but some. In 2019 he started five games and allowed six goals. He didn’t play again for NYCFC.

Brad Stuver celebration
Brad Stuver didn't become an MLS starter until 2021.
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Finding a home

Then 2021 came with a new opportunity. Stuver and his wife, Ashley, decided Austin might be a fit for them personally and professionally. Personally, the city seemed right up their alley. Professionally, open competition for a starting spot in an expansion team offered Brad a chance at showing what he could do as a full-time starter. He won the job, his first starting gig in eight years of behind-the-scenes work in MLS, and he kept it.

For good reason. Among starting goalkeepers, Stuver finished ninth in goals minus expected goals (G-xG) and eighth in American Soccer Analysis’ goals added metric. He’s still behind Crepeau and Clark in that regard. But he did finish ahead of Johnson and won Austin’s Defensive Player of the Year Award.

For Stuver, those numbers and his performance on an expansion team, which had its moments of looking a lot like an expansion team, validated the patience he’d put in to reach that moment and a confidence he could succeed when given the minutes.

“It was always difficult. It helped a little bit knowing that I was sitting behind national team goalkeepers,” Stuver said before Sunday's nationally-broadcast game vs. Seattle Sounders FC (4:30 pm ET | FS1, FOX Deportes). “Sitting behind Steve Clark when his name was being thrown around for the national team, sitting behind Zack Steffen, when he was emerging into the national team, sitting behind Sean Johnson, who’s been part of the national team forever.”

“Last year validated everything that I thought over that eight, nine-year period when I came down here to Austin and got a chance to become a starter and kind of took it and ran with it," Stuver added. "It just kind of validated all of those thoughts that I had throughout my career. In the back of my mind, I always knew that once I got my chance that I would be okay, that I would continue to push myself and make myself better and all I needed was a chance. And I’m glad that Austin saw that.”

Brad Stuver Austin fans
Brad Stuver takes a goal kick before the Verde & Black faithful.

Community work

With that starting role came a platform. Stuver has always worked to be involved in the community during his career, but starter status carries a different weight. Stuver has used every inch of that platform and then some, starting from the moment he arrived.

“Most of us came down right as we had that winter storm here in Austin and the entire city lost power. We kind of banded together as a team," Stuver said. "We were new to the city, but we banded together and we were like, 'All right, what can we do as a team to try and like help people that are without power, without food, without all of this stuff?' So we were kind of thrown into the community right away.”

Austin FC’s players launched a GoFundMe to raise funds for the club's 4ATX Foundation's support of the Austin Area Urban League, which assists underserved Austin-area residents. The players set a goal of $15,000. The project raised $45,855.

Stuver continued to work in Austin throughout the rest of the year. In particular, he and Ashley worked to set up events in Austin with The Laundry Project, which assists lower-income families by paying for laundry fees and washing clothes and linens while volunteers assist with laundry services at laundromats across the country. That work is still ongoing, with the next Laundry Project date in Austin set for March 27.

His efforts in 2021 made him a finalist for the MLS Works Humanitarian of the Year Award. And he’s only continued to grow his involvement within the community. Stuver is a foundation board of trustees member with Equality Texas, the largest LGBTQI+ justice nonprofit in Texas. Recently, Stuver assisted with a fundraiser on “Amplify Austin Day” that raised over $50,000 for Equality Texas in the midst of Texas government legislation surrounding Trans youth.

Stuver is also an ambassador for Athlete Ally, an organization that works to encourage athletes to be outspoken for LGBTQI+ equality. Stuver recently worked with Austin’s ABC affiliate, KUVE, to provide a day of soccer at Q2 Stadium for Ryan, a 12-year-old in foster care looking for a forever family. A few days later, Stuver and MLSsoccer.com’s Michael Lahoud headlined a panel on athlete activism at SXSW.

"I could play here until I retire"

Stuver is so constantly involved with the Austin community to the point where otherwise random events like shoutouts from the mayor and the creation of his own beer feel like everyday occurrences. It’s clear that his work is appreciated by so many in Austin.

But not everywhere in Texas is Austin. Not everywhere in Austin is “Austin.” Stuver is aware that everything he says and acts on isn’t going to be received with open arms.

“Everyone has a different journey," he said. "Near the beginning of mine, I was very hesitant to be as outspoken as I am now. I've had to educate myself a lot on the issues. I've had to get more comfortable speaking on the issues. I've talked to a lot more people that have put me at ease and given me their story. But yeah, if you check my Twitter today after the panel, I have a bunch of people like coming at me and telling me that I'm a child abuser and all these things.

“It's been a long journey and where I'm at now is just at a point where it's more important to speak up and use the platform that I've been given than to worry about what could happen.”

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Stuver’s MLS journey began with him not knowing where he would be playing each week. After eight years in soccer purgatory, he’s found a city and a team that value him more than any other. The least he can do is work to return the sentiment.

“No matter what city I'm living in, I have the unique opportunity to play soccer for a living and the fans, the community, everything about a city is what makes you able to do that," he said. "So getting involved in the community is just a way for me to pay them back, to allow me to kick a soccer ball for a living. Here in Austin, everyone has jumped on board and everyone kind of has that same mentality of like community comes first. And so everything that we're doing down here is just amplified by the amount of support that we have from the club from ownership, from the fans, to the community. It's been amazing to see.

“It's just one of those places that you can call home very quickly. You feel at home with the people that surround you. And I mean, if I could play here until I retire, that'd be great.”