Josh Brunais, U.S. Army Veteran and Paralympic Soccer Player, Elected U.S. Flag Bearer for Closing Ceremony
CHICAGO (Dec. 5, 2016) – U.S. Soccer has announced the nominees for the 2016 U.S. Soccer Young Male, Young Female and Disabled Player of the Year awards.
Nominees for Young Male Player of the Year are Andrew Carleton, Cameron Carter-Vickers, Josh Sargent, Christian Pulisic and Jordan Morris.
Young Female Player of the Year nominees are midfielders Emily Ogle and Andi Sullivan, defenders Kaleigh Riehl and Karina Rodriguez and forward Ashley Sanchez. This is the second nomination for Sanchez.
The Disabled Player of the Year nominees are Adam Ballou (Paralympic Soccer National Team), Nico Calabria (U.S. Amputee Soccer National Team), Emily Cressy (U.S. Deaf Women’s National Team), Matt Eby (U.S. Deaf Men’s National Team)
The winner for the Young Male Player of the Year award will be announced on Friday, Dec. 9 on FS1, while the winner for the Young Female Player of the Year award will be revealed on Sunday, Dec. 11 on ESPN FC. The Disabled Player of the Year winner will be announced Monday, Dec. 12 on ussoccer.com.
- 2016 Player Bios: Young Male | Young Female | Disabled
- Past U.S. Soccer Player of the Year Winners
A new voting process was put into place in 2014. Votes are collected from respective National Team coaches, National Team players who have earned a cap in 2016, American soccer league (MLS, NASL and NWSL) head coaches, select media members, former players and administrators.
Players cannot win the Young Male or Young Female award more than once.
The award for Young Male and Young Female Player of the Year was first awarded in 1998 with Josh Wolff and Cindy Parlow, winning for Young Male and Young Female, respectively. The Disabled Player of the Year was first awarded in 2012 with Felicia Schroeder earning the honor.Read more
The past few months have been a whirlwind for U.S. Paralympic National Team player Josh Brunais. From being selected to represent his country at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro to representing Team USA in meet-and-greet with President Barack Obama, Brunais has found a way to make the most out of this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
The midfielder, who is usually a reserved person, was initially hesitant to share his story through U.S. Soccer’s “One Nation. One Team. 14 Stories.” series about the PNT.
“To be honest, at first I was really nervous,” Brunais told ussoccer.com. “I’m not a big fan of sharing my background. I always try to keep things low-key. But after talking to my coach (Stuart Sharp) and everybody else around me, just knowing that I would have the opportunity to inspire others meant a lot to me.”
As the Paralympics came to a close, the Army veteran found himself in a fortunate situation: he was selected by all of Team USA to serve as the flag bearer for the U.S. in the closing ceremony. To say he was incredibly honored and humbled would be an understatement, and although he credits teammate Seth Jahn for lobbying for him to get selected, he held the USA flag as tall and proud as he could to show the world that Team USA was in the building.
“I don’t know how he did it, but Seth Jahn was my representative and he must’ve been the best wordsmith ever because he made it happen,” Brunais said. “I was selected and I’ve now carried the flag in two capacities – one overseas while deployed and one representing all the U.S. Paralympic athletes. It meant the world to me.”
If meeting the President was never on Brunais’ radar, standing next to President Obama during a speech and thanking him on behalf of Team USA was beyond his greatest expectations. He was told about an hour prior to the visit to the White House that he and Olympic Gold Medal gymnast Simone Biles would serve as the representatives who would present a pair of signed surfboards to the President as a “thank you” from the entire Olympic delegation. Although his nerves almost got the best of him, he managed to put a quick thank-you speech together, earning a thumbs up from President Obama.
The highlight of this experience, however, was when Vice President Joe Biden grabbed him by the shoulder and pulled him in as President Obama was speaking.
“He asked me if I had another four years left in me,” Brunais commented. “I immediately said ‘Of course, sir!’ I had to let him know that there’s no doubt I’ll stick around.”
Following a surreal day at the White House, Brunais embarked on another unexpected adventure, this time serving as an honorary captain for the Washington Spirit before a crucial playoff match.
The PNT midfielder has been a fan of the Spirit and the U.S. WNT’s Ali Krieger for quite some time. Although the pair had never met, they grew up in close proximity and attended rival high schools in Northern Virginia. So when his selection as flag bearer was announced, Krieger tweeted congratulations to him and invited him to a Spirit match. The two finally met a few days before the game at a Team USA banquet in the nation’s capital and coordinated plans for Friday’s big game. Match day rolled around and Brunais shook many hands, performed his honorary captain duties, and enjoyed watching Washington take home a “W” in the NWSL Semifinals.
While each these experiences have been life-changing for Brunais, he knows none of it would have been possible without his teammates. In Brunais’ mind, Jahn said it best in a passionate open letter to the PNT.
“Usually people will refer to teammates and fellow athletes as a second family, but to me they are equivalent to my first family. They’re right there on that level,” said Brunais. “Since my life has changed and things have gotten a little harder, being around them makes everything easier. They understand what I’m going through. This team has given me a new drive and focus in life after I got out of the military. They were all part of that; they’ve helped me when I’ve had good days and bad days. I can’t thank them enough.”
Looking back at the past few months, Brunais believes his biggest takeaway is how he’s been able to turn things around in soccer and in life thanks to the team.
“I was able to find myself and become an athlete again, something that had always been a part of my life,” Brunais stated. “I’m incredibly grateful.”
As for the future, he wants to continue improving individually, but even more so push the PNT higher and higher until they reach the number one spot in the world.Read more
To my brothers,
When I left my career two years ago, the position I attained, the money, and essentially the pinnacle and culmination of all I had worked for throughout my adult life, I made that sacrifice because I had a vision of what this team could achieve together. I never thought that I would return to the game after college, much less join such a remarkable group of misfits so many years later.
During my first camp, before we qualified for Rio, coach and I sat down and discussed my goals. ”Rio” was all I could muster. Throughout the last couple years, we laughed together, we fought together, we cried together, we sweat together, we bled together, we lost together, and we won together. We did it together with one common goal: competing in the Paralympics.
I often reflect back on the grit and determination this team has displayed so many times over the years, like the time we clawed our way from behind in the final minutes to earn a 5-3 victory against the Footie Povoa host nation, Portugal, to secure a third-place finish ahead of some of the best countries in the world. I think about the skill and mental toughness in overcoming injuries and absences by winning the bronze medal at the 2014 America’s Cup.
I think back to when we took the pitch in the second half against Scotland at the 2015 World Championships trailing 1-0, and looking in every one of your eyes and seeing there was no quit and no way we were going to lose. We fought and we won. Shortly after, we experienced heartbreak after taking the number-four ranked Dutch squad to double overtime to make it to the semifinals. But we rebounded back in a must-win game with a crushing 4-1 victory against Argentina to stamp our passports to Rio. And of course the 4-3 come-from-behind victory again over Argentina in Spain earlier this year.
The U.S. PNT celebrates after punching its ticket to the 2016 Paralympic games with a 4-1 win vs. Argentina at the 2015 Cerebral Palsy Football World Championships.
What truly showed how far this team has come in such a short time was on full display in Rio by concluding our season with a 2-1 victory over Ireland, the same team we lost to 4-1 and 5-0 just months before! Simply incredible, gentlemen.
These few examples, and many others I did not mention, do not fully capture the spirit, mentality, and potential of this team. We accomplished something that men, women, and children all over the world can only dream of. We reached the greatest stage in our sport and we did so while displaying the qualities of what makes our country, and each and every one of you, so great. We represented our country and ourselves with honor, respect, courage, sacrifice, and strength.
I know we are all saying, “what if…” and “if this…”, but the fact of the matter is that we made waves on the international stage. We showed that we’re a dangerous team, a term that had never been used to describe our team until all of you gave everything of yourselves to earn that. Our time in Brazil is something we will all share forever and no one will ever be able to take that from you. What an incredible legacy.
Throughout this tournament, not only did we now show that we belong with the best in the world, but we set this program up for success in the future. Aspiring players around our country who watched each and every one of you and learned of your tremendously powerful and inspirational stories will come into this team for their trials knowing that they will have to work their asses off to join our ranks. The results will come with the foundation that we have laid.
There are no words to capture the pride and love I have for each of you, my brothers. No matter where our roads take us in the future, I want you to know that if you ever need me, I’ll be there, as I know you would do the same for me. Hold your heads up high, reflect on what we did, on who we are, and let’s get back to the grindstone.
Our coach and staff created a formula for success with this team, and we have not fully honored that yet. Coach [Stuart] Sharp has led by example in his dedication to all of us. He has transformed this program and this team, using each of us as his instruments.
I am motivated to get back to work, to put that crest over my chest, and take the pitch with you all again very soon. We have work to do. I love you all.
US National 7-a-side Football Striker / Co-CaptainRead more