HANOVER, N.J. — Yes, he fits the profile as a soccer-playing kid growing up in Flemington, New Jersey and he did go to a few games at Red Bull Arena to watch Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill up close.
His club was Players Development Academy, better known simply as PDA. Their archrival was, you guessed it, the Red Bulls.
RBNY rival turns RBNY prospect
“It used to be the biggest game,” White told MLSsoccer.com. “I remember playing Alex [Muyl], Derrick [Etienne], Evan [Louro], Billy Stevens was on the Academy team. I'll wear a PDA shirt to training every now and again and Derrick gets all mad and riled up.”
For a span of about three years in his teens, there was nothing White looked forward to more than playing the Red Bulls. But a change in conferences sent PDA to play teams in Pennsylvania and Virginia, while the Red Bulls were traveling further up the East coast.
“Once they switched I was heartbroken,” White said. “Those were my favorite games. It was so competitive.”
A few years later, White’s biggest games were against the University of Virginia and Maryland as a member of the Duke men’s soccer team. He started seven games his freshman year and was a regular starter in each of the next three years for the Blue Devils.
When the school year was over, he returned to New Jersey in the summers and competed in the Premier Development League — for the Red Bulls U-23 team.
“After that when I came here I was like, ‘yeah, Red Bulls all the way, let’s go,’” White said.
For those two months in back-to-back summers, it also gave White a taste of what playing for the Red Bulls could be like.
“The idea of it was we wanted to get after teams, play balls in behind, we want to press high,” White said. “Just being exposed to that was something I kept in my mind while I was at Duke.”
White was drafted No. 16 overall in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft and contributed immediately. He had eight goals and five assists in all 22 matches for New York Red Bulls II in the USL before signing with the first team in August 2018. His first goal came later that month in a 1-0 win over the Houston Dynamo at Red Bull Arena (watch below).
White got his taste of playing in Major League Soccer — and he wanted more.
“It kind of fed a little bit of a fire in me,” White said. “You want that feeling. You want to be able to play in those games and score goals in front of not only the fans, but your friends and family. So yeah, it definitely burned a bigger fire in me.”
Thrust into the spotlight
This season, when Bradley Wright-Phillips went down with a groin injury that ended up sidelining him for two months, Red Bulls coach Chris Armas turned to White to fill the void and the 23-year-old now leads the team with five goals along with two assists.
Armas marvels at the runs White makes off the ball, his hold-up play, how he arrives in the box and his poacher's mentality when he gets there. Like BWP, his goals will rarely be up for Goal of the Week. They are the gritty finishes, the slides in at the edge of the six-yard box, knocking in a rebound, a header at the back post.
It’s not a case of what he brings that's different to the position, but rather how much alike he is to the two-time MLS Golden Boot presented by Audi winner.
“I think one of his best qualities, he runs off the ball well. His timing of when to arrive, he's got that feel for things inside the box, kind of like Brad does,” Armas said. “They show up just in the right moment, in the right space and the right time.”
BWP on BW: His finishing is top class
Wright-Phillips, too, has been amazed at the poise White has shown and the consistency of his play.
“I’m a big fan of Brian. I think his all-around play is – I’m not sure you’ll notice this – but I think it’s very underrated,” he said. “I think his finishing is top class, he proves that every day in training.”
White isn’t letting his newfound stardom get to his head. He’s humble and grounded and, like when he played for PDA, has high aspirations for his future.
“I have a goal in mind and right now I haven’t achieved that goal yet and hopefully one day I’ll get there,” White said. “Until then, I have to keep a level head and keep grinding.”
While his goals on the field are there for everyone to see, this goal, White said, will stay close to the vest for now.
“It’s a secret, a secret goal,” White said. “It’s just a level I’m trying to reach.”