With a big step forward and an overhead flick of his wrists, New England Revolution defender Brandon Bye sent a long throw-in sailing into the attacking penalty area.
The ball met the head of teammate Juan Agudelo just outside the near edge of the 6-yard box and changed direction before sneaking past the near post of the goal and into the net.
Aguedelo’s header marked the second goal for which Bye provided an assist in the 2018 MLS season, as the connection opened the scoring in New England’s 3-3 tie against Orlando City SC on Aug. 4. For Bye, it provided a contribution to his team’s success, which has been the defender’s primary goal since working his way into regular starting lineups in the recent weeks.
“I’m always looking to help the team in any way,” Bye said. “The last few games, I’ve been getting 90 minutes under my belt.
“As long as I can contribute in not allowing goals when being part of the back line — doing whatever I can to help the team — that’s what I’m looking to do. The goals and the assists are nice, but at the end of the day, it’s about helping the team in any way possible.”
Bye has played the full 90 minutes in three of New England’s last four games, as the Revolution fight for a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. It is another step forward in a career that has seen Bye make significant strides on the field each year.
Bye played for Alliance FC (MI) and Kalamazoo Kingdom (MI) during his youth career — competing in US Youth Soccer programs, including the Midwest Regional League (MRL) and the US Youth Soccer Midwest Regional Championships.
Whether playing up a year for Kalamazoo or competing with Alliance during his junior and senior years of high school, Bye said his best memories of those teams are the relationships he enjoyed with his teammates — many of whom he also played with or against during the high school soccer season.
With Alliance, Bye advanced to the semifinals of the 2013 Midwest Regional Championships in Des Moines, Iowa.
“It was everything to be there and try to get to the National Championships,” Bye said. “It meant everything. We were a high-level team and highly ranked.”
Despite coming up short, he and his teammates gained valuable experience, as well as a victory over in-state foe WAZA FC, which had beaten Alliance in the Michigan State Cup. Bye said the college exposure provided another factor for that level of competition, as he recalls many coaches from top colleges lining the sidelines to evaluate his team.
Former Western Michigan men’s soccer assistant coach Marc Frankland, who is now the league manager for the US Youth Soccer National League Midwest Conference, said the Broncos staff first saw Bye at the Regional Championships and MRL competitions. Since the first time seeing him play, Frankland said Bye has continually showed a willingness to improve.
“Brandon is one of the most dedicated players to the sport I have ever worked with, and I was lucky to spend the past five years with Brandon as an assistant coach at Western Michigan,” Frankland said. “The development Brandon showed from year to year was staggering, culminating in MAC Player of the Year honors as a senior — in a run that took the school into the third round of the NCAA Tournament and a top 10 national ranking.”
Bye built off his growth in college and standout senior season by excelling at the 2018 MLS Combine, where he posted top 10 scores in the speed, agility and power tests — the lone field player with such numbers.
His combine performance, coupled with his growth during his youth and college years, led to Bye being selected by New England with the No. 8 overall pick in the 2018 MLS SuperDraft.
Bye said a lot of his growth and improvements come from being surrounding by good teammates and coaches, but also his own mentality.
“I try not to stay stagnant or be comfortable with where I’m at,” Bye said. “If I was starting for my high school or club team, I wasn’t comfortable with just being there but tried to achieve more.
“I tried to become a starter my freshman year of college and be a consistent starter my sophomore and junior year. Being a consistent player up top for Western Michigan and now coming to this level and trying to contribute in any way I can — it’s pushing myself while trying to push other players, as well.”
That approach continues to motivate Bye now that he is seeing regular time on the field for the Revolution.
He is focused on improving and helping his team this season, but Bye also has long-term goals in mind. By working to establish himself as a consistent contributor in MLS, the Michigan native hopes that opens other doors.
“In the next one, two, three years or whatever it may be, I’d like to get a look at the National Team,” Bye said. “I would love to play for my country. That would be an unreal experience. Hopefully, through my work here in MLS and whatever it may be, that might become possible.”