Defender Brad Rusin started his soccer career in Bradenton, Fla., and is now playing for the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League.

Brad Rusin, Rowdies showing signs of a contender for new season

Defender brings experience, leadership to improved Tampa Bay squad

PETERSBURG, Fla. — Brad Rusin is a cool customer while playing in the Floridian heat.

Having started his professional career in Bradenton, Fla., with the IMG Academy, Rusin has called Florida his off-season home for the last decade.

“I can honestly say I wouldn’t be where I am without my development from down in Bradenton,” said the 28 year old, who is recovering from a Thursday morning workout at the University of South Florida’s Practice Facility.

Rusin is chomping at the bit to continue his career in Florida after being released by Orlando City following the club’s promotion into Major League Soccer.

“Its great, from the beginning they stressed to me, the management group, that they want to win, he said. “Obviously every club wants to win, but some clubs don’t show that they want to win.”

Beginning this season with the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the North American Soccer League, the defender’s new club is poised to contend for a Soccer Bowl title after a dismal 2014 campaign with a record of 2-4-3 through nine league games played.

The sturdy defensive back is excited by management’s active off-season to bolster the club’s roster, adding 19 new players, including veteran goalkeeper Kamil Contofalsky, a 2008 UEFA Cup champion and calming presence in the back end for the club.

Rusin is fully aware that his job may be eased at times with a goalkeeper of Contofalsky’s stature behind him.

“His resume speaks for itself,” said Rusin.

Manager Thomas Rongen stated that he’s also still feeling the effects from a knee injury last season.

Rusin seen icing his knee after practice in St. Petersburg, Fla.
Rusin, seen icing his knee after practice in St. Petersburg, Fla., Thursday, is expected to be healthy for the upcoming NASL season. (Flip Livingstone/Toronto Observer)

“Brad has had some bad luck with his knee, with the fluid building up at times. Should be sorted out soon.”

The club’s improvements also extend beyond the 18-yard box, with Rusin citing the culture change that the organization is undergoing ahead of the 2015 NASL season.

“Whether it’s bringing in players, upgrading the stadium, the beautiful practice field we have here, they show they want to be a top-class organization…they’re building a great team.”

The former UCLA Bruin has taken notice to the winning culture being formed inside the Rowdies facilities and day-to-day happenings, displaying confidence and reverence towards his new teammates

“There’s quite a few leaders to be honest. A lot of guys with experience, some guys more than me. No matter what, I’m still going to be vocal back there.”

Having both domestic and international experience, playing overseas for HB Køge of the Danish 1st Division, Rusin’s ability and desire to galvanize his teammates for long-term success remains unchanged.

“Ultimately we are all leaders, and we need to put that on our ourselves,” he said.