After battling for two draws on the road against a talented Brazos Valley Cavalry FC team (9-0-2), Mississippi Brilla FC (6-3-5) hosted the team from Texas to close out the 2019 season.
After holding its own for much of the first half, a penalty kick in the 29th minute gave Cavalry FC an early 1-0 lead only to be answered by two more before the end of the first half.
Brilla FC showed life after a well-put together goal from Harry Reilly to Sondre Olsen in the 56th minute for Brilla’s lone goal on the evening.
Brazos Valley Cavalry FC took the lead back to three goals in the 61st minute off a second penalty kick.
Brilla closes its season 6 wins, 5 draws and only 3 losses in coach Luke Sanford’s inaugural season as head coach.
Coach Sanford did not overlook the obvious fatigue his team showed at the end of a long series and a long season.
“We weren’t sharp tonight,” Sanford said. “We played a really good team tonight. They’re the best team we’ve played all year, and to play them three straight times is very difficult in asking these guys.”
Sanford said Brilla FC was outmatched at times, but the 3-0 deficit at halftime did not deter the team’s effort.
“I told them at half-time, let’s go out there and get a result in the second half, so we made a couple of tactical adjustments, executed well and got a goal in the second half.”
Sanford said he is extremely proud of his team and enjoyed the process provided by a developmental league like USL League Two.
“I’ve really enjoyed working with these guys and watching them grow as players,” he said.
“I hope the fans have seen us grow and get better,” Sanford said, “and I hope they were entertained.”
Sanford called this year’s team a true blue-collar group, willing to work. “We could provide class when needed, but we also knew everything would be earned through work. And hopefully that represents the club well.”
Sanford added that his players developed, but also he grew as a coach. He noted his players come from quality teams with great coaching staffs, so his efforts at training and matches needed to be elite.
“If I didn’t provide my best, they knew it.” He added, “I’ve been challenged as a coach and have grown, and hopefully they can say the same thing as players.”
He reflected on the impact the summer had for his team beyond the pitch as well.
“I enjoyed watching these guys grow in their camaraderie and friendships over the past six weeks,” he said. “I know for me, there are still friendships I have 13 years later from my summer when I played for Brilla.”
Mississippi Brilla FC’s season may have come to a close, but the Brilla Ministries will still host a handful of camps in the coming weeks.
Next summer’s team is already on Coach Luke Sanford’s mind as he’s begun recruiting for the summer of 2020.