|As the old saying goes, “Don’t fix something that isn’t broken.” After arguably the best season in their 11 years in the Premier Development League, Mississippi Brilla FC will begin the 2018 season with a core group of players that led them to the national semi-finals in 2017.
“Turnover is inevitable in the PDL,” said Rusty Bryant, Brilla’s General Manager. “Anytime you can return players that are familiar with each other and familiar with the culture of the team, you are way ahead of the game.”
When Brilla kicks off its 2018 season in the newly formed Deep South Division on May 12, there will be a total of 9 familiar faces on the roster. Leading the way will be 6 members of a defensive unit that gave up a total of 10 goals during the 2017 regular season.
“Our defense was our strength last year,” said Bryant. “To have many of those leaders return this year, including two goalkeepers, puts us in a very good position going into the season. Coach Mark McKeever has done an excellent job building this year’s squad on the strength of last year’s team.”
The two goalkeepers that have manned the net for the past 3 seasons will be returning to Brilla this season. Veteran team captain Jordan Bell from Scotland was the starting goalkeeper for the division championship side in 2015. He returned to the team in 2017, starting 15 games and allowing only 8 goals in the regular season. Brendan Ledgeway from England was the team’s starting goalkeeper in 2016, and then returned midway through last season to provide depth to the team.
Jordan Skelton, All-American center-back from Lander University, is arguably the top returning player from last year’s squad. The Englishman appeared in 16 games last year, logging over 1400 minutes. He added a goal and an assist while anchoring a back line that was stingy all season long.
Outside backs Richard Bryan, Guillaume Campos, and Koray Easterling also return in the defensive third for Brilla. Bryan, a native of England who appeared in all 17 matches last season, recently completed an outstanding Junior season with Lander University. Campos (France) and Easterling (German-born Mississippian) were both impact players last season as they appeared in 14 and 6 matches respectively.
The Brilla attack will also feature experience as midfielders Thibaut Bourrier (France) and Sinclaire Sandy (England) return for a second season. Bourrier, a current standout at Urbana University, finished last season with 3 goals and 2 assists in 12 matches. Sandy, a teammate of Skelton and Bryan at Lander University, appeared in all 17 games and contributed 3 assists for Brilla in 2017.
Finally, Georgia State striker Javen Palmer will also be returning after joining the Mississippi squad mid-season. Palmer, a native of England, made 4 regular season and 3 playoff appearances, tallying 2 goals.
Mississippi Brilla FC begins its 2018 season with a May 9 U.S. Open Cup match. The opponent and host location will be determined in early April. The first regular season home match is scheduled for May 19 at 7:00 pm at Clinton High School Arrow Field. Tickets are available at Brillasoccer.org.