This is the first entry in an ongoing series following up with players who were major contributors to Orlando City but did not continue on with the MLS squad. We understand that it is a business, and respect that both teams and players must occasionally part ways. However, since 2011 Orlando City has been more than a team; it’s been a family. Even though these players have moved on, they will always be a part of that.
To kick off our ‘Where Are They Now’ series, I recently had a chance to talk with former Orlando City defender Brad Rusin. One of my personal favorite Lions from 2014, Rusin was acquired from the Vancouver Whitecaps at the beginning of the 2014 season and ended up sixth on the team in minutes played across 23 appearances. He also found the net twice in league play to lead all defenders (tied with Luke Boden).
One of my favorite moments of the 2014 season came in the Aug. 16 match-up against eventual league runners-up Harrisburg. Rusin spent quite a bit of the night chasing around Antoine Hoppenot, now of the Philadelphia Union. The image of the hulking, 6-foot-4 Indiana native chasing the slight, 5-foot-8 Frenchman had me literally laughing in the press box. At one point, the two collided and crashed to the turf. Hoppenot jumped up, obviously angry. He took one look at the player next to him on the ground, quickly changed his tone, and reached out a hand to help Rusin up.
At 28, Rusin has spent time in the NASL, USL, MLS, and the Danish Superliga. One might think that he would be unmoved at this point by the business dealings of the soccer world. However, two things are distinctly clear in speaking with him: Orlando City SC meant a huge deal to him, and he was crushed not to be moving forward with the team to Major League Soccer.
It’s easy to see why the team seemed uncharacteristically unfocused in the final few weeks of the season. Rusin made it clear just how much moving forward with the club meant to him and his teammates, and many had to know by that point that it was unlikely for them.
On not being selected for the MLS team, Rusin said, “I came to Orlando City not to be here for one USL season, but to be with this club moving forward into MLS. Last year, I told MLS clubs ‘no’ because I wanted to be a part of something special. I believed I had a great year and would be moving forward, but the club had a different vision
“I can honestly say that some of my teammates and I would have given everything to bleed purple for years to come. For us, it wasn’t just a job; it was a passion and a responsibility to the city and the fans. It’s not easy to accept, but it will only make us stronger.”
Brad had a lot to say on the subject, and the entirety of it was full of heartfelt disappointment mixed with a clear passion for the club and fans he spent the last year with. A good portion of our talk focused on just how much he appreciated the Orlando City fans who had supported the club.
“In my time with the team, I will say that the fans are what make this club special,” Rusin said. “Keep standing and keep chanting, because you are the ones who make this game so special”
Though currently a free agent, Rusin tells me this won’t be the case for long. He and his agent have spoken with approximately 10 teams, including USL, NASL, and MLS clubs. Rusin says they’re waiting for the right opportunity, which may come after the MLS season ends in December.
“I have been at this point in my career before,” he said. “I understand that it’s a business. I’m excited for what the future holds and I can’t wait to get started on the next chapter of my career.”
This is a bittersweet business to be sure, but it’s exciting to hear that Brad has had so much interest from other clubs. For Orlando City fans, we may not yet have seen Rusin on the pitch with City for the last time. Unfortunately, next time he may not be wearing purple!