DAVID SMITH - Friday, July 15, 2011
On the eve of the 2011-12 Danish Superliga season, Køge central defender Brad Rusin is ready to add his talents to the young squad as they navigate their first season back in the top flight.
Rusin's recent move to Køge was the culmination of a mutual interest that began in late-2010 when the Indiana native trained with the Copenhagen area team as a member of partner club Chicago Bridges FC.
While Køge's coaching staff were impressed enough to try to sign the UCLA graduate to their roster for the remainder of their 2010-11 campaign, problems prevented the team from completing the move.
The story didn't stop there, however, as the both parties kept tabs on the other, and team's promotion back to the Superliga ultimately brought about Rusin's successful transfer to Denmark.
"Ever since things didn't work out last time around a year ago I have been following [Køge] very closely," Rusin told YA. "I would look quite often and I knew the day they were promoted to Superliga."
"I was definitely happy for the club and players because it is a small club and it is great for them to achieve this."
The promotion prompted Rusin to congratulate the team's management on their accomplishment, and their response re-opened the door for his move to the coastal town.
"I actually emailed the Sport Director a few days later congratulating the club on promotion and he had emailed me back stating their interest in me for this upcoming Superliga season," he continues, "I was very happy to hear that and now I find myself here at a great club!"
Having finished his college days at UCLA in 2008, Rusin has spent the entirety of his professional career to date at NASL club Carolina Railhawks rather than going the route through MLS. While the team has been at or near the top of their respective division during his two full seasons in Cary, North Carolina, he recognizes that the jump to a league with teams regularly holding their own in European competition will be a challenge and require him to continue developing his skill set in the center of defense.
"The level of play in the Superliga will be very high," Rusin analyzes. "It is considered a top league in Europe and has some big clubs with some great tradition [such as] FC Copenhagen and Brøndby IF."
"The biggest thing to me is just adjusting to the speed of play and the tactical side of things. I think in Europe they take much more time on formations and ways to attack and defend, and the team that executes it the best has the best chance to win."
HB Køge, which was formed in early-2009 from the merger of the two local clubs Herfølge BK and Køge BK, has experienced its ups and downs in recent seasons. Herfølge were Danish champions in 2000 although spent much of the decade since bouncing between the top two divisions in the country.
Their most recent season in the Superliga ended in relegation in 2010, and the team is looking to avoid many of the problems which plagued a campaign during which they only compiled 19 points through 33 games, largely due to a leaky defense which allowed 69 goals during that span.
"Without a doubt our biggest weakness is defensive set pieces," he admits. "The boys were saying this was a huge problem a couple of years ago when they were in Superliga...giving up to many goals on corners and free kicks."
"I am confident I can step in and be a presence in there," the former Carolina Railhawks states.
On the flipside, he does feel the team, while dwarfed in the financial sense by the league heavyweights, has the tools and tactical style to hold their own in a highly competitive division where the difference between fighting for Europe or alternatively against relegation can be decided by just a remarkably few games.
"Our biggest strength would have to be our style of play," Rusin asserts. "We like to press high and make teams make mistakes. I think we will benefit from it a lot because we are a passing team that likes to build from the back."
In addition to helping to shore up Køge's defense, Rusin holds another natural advantage which he is pushing to use for his team's benefit. Standing at 6'4", the towering defender hopes to take a cue from his predecessor in Denmark Clarence Goodson and utilize his height to be a constant threat on the opposing goal.
"I need to score some goals," he simply states. "Great defenders not only defend well, but they make a name for themselves with goals and that's what I want to do this year!"
Having joined up with his new teammates during the final days of their pre-season training camp in northern Germany, the former Bruin is fully aware that it might take some time to establish himself as an undisputed starter in the defense.
"Personally, I want to be playing every week and be winning games," he confesses. "However, I want the team to do well and if that means I am not playing some games or whatnot, I will support whoever is on the field, because at the end of the day if the team does well we all benefit."
"From being here only a short time, I think all the boys have the same mentality."
His first chance to take the field with the team for an exhibition game barely two days after joining up did leave him with a positive outlook for the new season despite any lingering travel fatigue, which he hopes to translate into a noticeable impact in the upcoming season.
"I played the last 30 minutes against Dresden and I felt very comfortable," he speaks of his first run-out against German 2. Bundesliga team Dynamo Dresden which occurred just two days after arriving in Denmark.
"I was confident going into the game because I am fit and excited to get the season started."