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Balancing act for Brotherton

Life is incredibly busy these days for All Whites defender Sam Brotherton.

Not only is he juggling football training with his University of Wisconsin teammates, and the captaincy, he also has his business school classes to think about.

And this week there’s also a couple of international friendlies occupying his time as well.

Brotherton has been named in the New Zealand squad set to take on Mexico and USA this week and while it means he’s having to balance a lot, he wouldn’t change it for the world.

“It’s been pretty tough trying to balance it all, but I’ve had a lot of support from the university and thankfully my professors have been understanding,” Brotherton said.

Brotherton is one of a handful of New Zealanders plying their trade in the NCAA. Cory Brown is at Xavier, Francis de Vries is a defender with Saint Francis Red Flash and Stuart Holthesun was at Akron in 2015.

The 20-year-old is well respected among his teammates in Wisconson and he remains hugely loyal to coach John Trask, something he proved after attracting interest following his five matches for the senior New Zealand national team at the OFC Nations Cup earlier this year.

“It was a decision I had to make, and I felt that I had made a commitment to the school,” Brotherton explained.

“I’ve always been passionate about my education and I wanted to get my degree so I felt I wanted to give college soccer a try, start off here at Wisconsin and see where it went.”

Brotherton has made 24 starts under Trask, who has nothing but good things to say about his captain.

“Sam is one of the few sophomores that I’ve named captain,” Trask said.

“It’s rare in a team. Sam has just got it. His presence as a person and the quality of his play, every guy on the team said he should be our captain.

“I’ve got a ton of time for him.”

Former teammate Adam Lauko is another who lauds the Kiwi’s attitude both on field and off.

“Sam is an excellent centre-back and he’s incredible in the air,” Lauko said.

“On top of that he is mature beyond his years and a well-respected leader. He’s a great guy to be around too.”

Brotherton put himself on the radar when he scored at the FIFA U-20 World Cup on home soil in 2015, and earned his first All Whites call-up in the side’s 1-0 win over Oman.

Having cracked that first step into the senior side he’s now doing what he can to learn from one of New Zealand’s best – West Ham defender and All Whites captain Winston Reid.

“Rugby is the main sport in New Zealand, but Winston has increased the awareness and popularity of football,” Brotherton said.

“He’s a great player and a great guy. A lot of guys look up to him, and every time you get in camp with him it’s great to learn off someone like that.”

There’s plenty on the horizon for this youngster to look forward to with dreams of a professional career in Europe or North American on his mind.

However right now he’s focusing on what lies directly ahead – two massive games in front of thousands of passionate Mexican and USA fans.

“All players look forward to playing in big games in front of some good crowds,” he said.

“It’s exciting and these opportunities don’t come around too often, so it brings the best out of you as a player.”

The All Whites will play Mexico on Saturday 8 October at Nissan Stadium in Nashville, Tennessee before travelling to Washington DC to play the USA on Tuesday 11 October.

Additional reporting: NBC Sports

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