Brad Stuver’s first year in MLS had to have been one of the craziest any professional soccer player has ever experienced.
After he was selected in the second round of the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, the Ohio native did not make the Montreal Impact roster and spent the year as an MLS pool goalkeeper. This meant that whenever any team had an emergency need at goalkeeper, he was brought in. Ultimately that meant that he spent time with four different teams throughout the year.
Stuver would eventually sign with the Columbus Crew for the 2014 season, but would have to wait seven years to get an opportunity to be a starter in MLS. It wasn’t an easy wait for the now 30-year-old.
“The people that I have had around me to encourage me and keep me on the path, as many times as I was frustrated about how things turned out and not getting a chance to become a starter, I’ve been extremely grateful to the people that have stuck by me and pushed me to allow me to get to this point,” Stuver told AustinFC.com earlier this week.
Having spent four years with the Crew and three with New York City FC, making the move to Austin was an easy decision. He had spent time working with Austin head coach Josh Wolff -- when Wolff was an assistant under Gregg Berhalter -- and with Austin Sporting Director Claudio Reyna as Reyna held the same position with NYCFC when the two were there together.
Stuver was the third goalkeeper signed to the roster, but knew he was coming to Austin to compete for the starting role. He had previously sat behind Steve Clark in Columbus and Sean Johnson in New York, having started just nine matches over seven seasons.
“Knowing both Josh, and the style of play he wants to implement, and the type of people he wanted to bring here -- and knowing Claudio as well -- and trusting both of them to run a club at the top level in MLS was definitely a big selling point. I had heard nothing but good things about the Austin community and since being down here I have not been disappointed.”
He competed with Andrew Tarbell throughout preseason for the starting role and ultimately won the role over the 2020 MLS Cup champion. Wolff pointed to his ability with his feet as the ultimate decider, as having a goalkeeper who’s comfortable on the ball is of massive importance in Wolff’s system.
Stuver has not disappointed. He is second in MLS among goalkeepers in terms of touches and third in passing accuracy (min. 3 games played). It’s a surprise that he’s so adept with the ball at his feet considering the systems he played in while with the Crew and NYCFC.
“I think I’ve been fortunate. I’ve been in a system like this pretty much my entire career. I was with Gregg Berhalter and his system, while Josh was the assistant, in Columbus and I was there for five seasons -- four with Gregg. We really drilled home playing out of the back and a goalkeeper needs to be good with his feet. From there I went to New York City and if you watch Man City play, their goalkeeper is always involved and that trickles down to all their clubs so New York City was no different.”
But that’s not to say he hasn’t been up to the task as a shot stopper. Stuver is currently tied atop the saves leaderboard and sports a save percentage inside the top five.
“I’m not surprised, he’s a great player,” said ATXFC midfielder Sebastian Berhalter, who was in the Columbus academy while Stuver was with the first team. “He’s a great goalie and he’s always shown that and now he’s really shining. I’m super proud of him -- he’s gone through a lot and now he [has his] moment and he’s doing his thing.”
Off the field, Stuver and his wife Ashley are also quickly adapting to life in Austin after arriving at the start of the year. With both fully vaccinated, they’re looking forward to checking out more of the city and some of the famous patio restaurants.
“We’ve been down here in Austin since the first week of January. Outside of the superstorm that shut power down for a week, it’s been really good. My wife and I are both fully vaccinated now so we’re starting to venture out into the city a little bit more and exploring different areas and planning on going to some different patio restaurants in the near future. We’re really excited."
“The vibes here are amazing, the support for the team is unbelievable. We enjoy the weather. We have a balcony now -- coming from the New York City metro area, we didn’t have a balcony so it’s nice to have some outdoor space and be able to sit outside in the nice weather. We’re really looking forward to exploring the city more.”
They will also look to continue doing some of the same work in the community that they started in New York with the Laundry Project. The charity assists lower-income families with meeting a basic need – washing clothes and linens, by turning laundromats into community centers of hope. Laundry fees are paid for while volunteers assist with laundry services, entertain children, and create a caring space at the laundromat.
“We still have a group in New York that’s affiliated with NYCFC that’s going to continue our work that we did there. So they’re going to continue the Laundry Project there in the Bronx but we’ve been speaking with the Laundry Project CEO and trying to set some dates up here in Austin. We’re kind of scouting locations and different areas of the city, hoping to get maybe our first project up and running by the end of the summer and then another one later in the fall. Hopefully we can find an area that works best and fund raise the money pretty quickly.”