Ex-USC star gets chance with D.C.
D.C. United rookie striker Blake Brettschneider figured the best way to make the team was to score as many goals as possible during the preseason.
Brettschneider has proven to be instant offense for D.C. United's attack this preseason. His three goals were enough to convince the coaching staff and front office to sign the former University of South Carolina forward for the upcoming Major League Soccer season.
Blake has literally played his way onto the team," said D.C. United coach Ben Olsen. "There are not many kids that come right out of college and challenge for a spot in this league. It's rare, but Blake has done that with his production."
It's been a whirlwind journey for Brettschneider, who finished his college career with the Gamecocks just four months ago. From there he took part in the MLS Player Combine in January and caught the eye of the D.C. United coaching staff.
"I don't think I hurt myself at the combine, but I know I could have done better," Brettschneider said. "You play three games with guys you've never played with before, so it's hard to get any real chemistry going. The only thing you can do is show well and hope someone notices you."
Brettschneider was taken in the second round of the MLS Supplemental Draft a week later, and it was off to Florida for preseason camp with the club.
"Of course I was really excited to get picked by D.C. United,"
Brettschneider said. "But at the same time, you know coming into the preseason camp you're going to be behind the more experienced guys in the league. It's a pretty humbling experience."
Brettschneider played little in Florida, struggling to keep up with the professional game.
"The league is much faster than college, much more intense," he said. "The quality of play is better. It's totally different than college soccer. In Fort Lauderdale, I was learning when to make the right runs and when to show."
When the scene shifted to California, Brettschneider made a lasting impression on the D.C. United coaching staff. In limited playing time, Brettschneider scored two goals in a friendly against the Ventura County Fusion, a professional developmental team just south of Los Angeles.
"I think I was more comfortable when we got out to California," Brettschneider said. "I got a couple of great balls from my teammates and was able to finish, but that was mostly just a case of me being in the right place at the right time. I felt this huge weight off my shoulders when I got that first goal. I think after that, I was able to relax and just play soccer."
Three days later, Brettschneider proved his two-goal outburst was no fluke, scoring a goal against University of California-Santa Barbara just minutes after stepping onto the field.
"It was kind of a crazy situation," Brettschneider said. "I had just come on the field and the ball just kind of fell to me. But that's my job, take what is given to me and make the most of it."
A few days after the Santa Barbara match, the club offered him a contract.
"We haven't given him a lot of playing time, but when he's been on the field, he's made the most of his opportunities," Olsen said. "He's proven he can finish around the net and that's what any coach wants from their forwards."
At South Carolina, Brettschneider was used almost exclusively at the top of the Gamecocks formation as a pure striker. Brettschneider scored all three goals for D.C. United as an outside right midfielder.
"I've played the position before, so I'm familiar with it," Brettschneider said. "I like playing out wide. I like getting the ball and running at people. I think I'm most comfortable up top because that's where I've played most of my career, but I don't care where I play. I'm going to do whatever I can to get on the field and help the team."
Brettschneider, whose parents live in the Atlanta area, said it was nice to be back in South Carolina playing in the Carolina Challenge Cup.
"I haven't seen my parents in a while and they're coming to town to watch me play, so that'll be nice," Brettschneider said. "I've been down to Charleston a few times during college. It's a great city."
Carolina Challenge Cup
5 p.m. - D.C. United vs. Chicago Fire
7:15 p.m. - Charleston Battery vs. Toronto FC
Where: Blackbaud Stadium
Editor's Note: An earlier version of the story contained incorrect photo.