How a journey to Austria helped revive Real Salt Lake’s Andrew Brody’s confidence and career

Recently sidelined by a broken toe, the RSL defender’s past provides a glimpse at his resolve.

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake defender Andrew Brody (2) competes in MLS action between Real Salt Lake and Minnesota United FC at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, on Saturday, May 29, 2021.

Real Salt Lake forward Justin Meram’s nickname for Andrew Brody is Dani Alves, a Brazilian defender who overcame hardships to become the player he is. Mike Kraus, director of the RSL Academy in Arizona, likens Brody to Aston Villa FC of the English Premier League — a team he says struggles to stay in the league and has a grind-it-out mentality.

Brody has experienced plenty of hardship throughout his career, and he’s currently dealing with some more. He played nine games and started seven while notching an assist before breaking his toe and undergoing surgery to repair it. There’s no specific timetable for his return, although the club said it will be determined “in the coming weeks” through his rehab process.

Struggle is part of Brody’s story, a journey that has taken him from Salt Lake to Saalfelden, Austria, and back again.

But if Brody’s learned anything throughout his professional career, it’s how to prove doubters wrong and rise to the occasion.

‘No quit in that kid’

After RSL’s 2019 preseason, Brody walked in to the team’s front office and said he wanted out. He thought he had played well and was frustrated that he wasn’t invited on the final leg of the preseason, told that he’d again been relegated to play for the Monarchs, RSL’s affiliate club in a lower league.

It was an all-too-familiar feeling.

Brody’s mindset going into that preseason, he said, was that if he didn’t receive a first-team contract by the end of it, he would leave Real Salt Lake. He told the front office that he was even thinking about quitting soccer altogether.

The club’s leaders asked him to think it over for a weekend and talk to those closest to him. Brody came back to the front office and said he loved soccer, but he thought his days of playing in Utah were over. He requested a trade. When one didn’t materialize, he played for the Monarchs until the opportunity for Austria arose.

“I’ll keep all the conversations we’ve had internally internal,” RSL General Manager Elliot Fall said. “But it really is one of the things I admire about him, which is his perseverance and his drive. There’s no quit in that kid, that’s for sure.”

(FC Pinzgau) Andrew Brody, right, defends as a member of FC Pinzgau. A stint with the third-division Austrian team in 2019 helped Brody regain his confidence and revive his career after plenty of doubt and frustration.

Beyond the doubt

Brody is not the strongest, tallest or fastest player. He’s tried bulking up, but he has a body type that makes it difficult to put on weight. Brody said his physical attributes have always been a subject surrounding him throughout his career. “He’s good, but can he play at this level and the next,” he would hear constantly.

During the Generation Adidas Cup in Dallas in 2011, Brody didn’t sniff the field the first game. Jordan Allen, former RSL player and Brody’s best friend, was at that tournament and remembers Brody didn’t play because “the first impression is that he’s the skinny kid.”

But in the second game, Brody impressed those watching. And he’s continued to impress at every stage of his career only to be doubted again and again, and it took a toll on him.

“It’s kind of hard when that’s what everybody’s telling you that’s in those positions where they control it — that you’re not good enough,” Brody said. “So eventually you just kind of start to believe it.”

Eventually, though, Brody turned his biggest perceived flaw into his biggest asset. From a young age, he’d practice in the backyard with his dad in the evenings and try to dribble around him and his brother, Eric. That followed him to the professional ranks, where his teammates rave about his ability on the ball.

“I think he’s exceptional,” Meram said. “He’s got so much quickness. He’s slippery. He understands the game. He never stops running. It’s honestly remarkable.”

Those closest to Brody say he should have been seeing MLS minutes years ago.

“At every stage he’s been doubted, and his journey’s taken longer than it should have because of that doubt,” Allen said. “But he’s just exceeded expectations every time and proved doubters wrong every chance he’s gotten.”

Off to Austria

After requesting a trade in early 2019, Brody returned to the Monarchs and waited. In July, he finally got a chance at a fresh start when he was loaned to a third-division team in Austria.

Brody had trained just twice with his new team, FC Pinzgau, since arriving to Saalfelden, a mountain town with 16,000 residents about an hour from Salzburg. He was there for a new challenge in both life and career after four difficult years at the USL Championship level with the Real Monarchs and the confidence-sucking failure of not making the Real Salt Lake roster.

After that second training session, FC Pinzgau coach Christian Ziege pulled Brody aside and asked why he was on a third-division team in Austria and not in Major League Soccer. When Brody replied that it was because he was told for years that he wasn’t good enough, the two-time Bundesliga champion laughed.

“I’ve seen the level of MLS,” Brody recalled Ziege saying. “After seeing you for two days, you definitely do belong at that level.”

That was all Brody needed to start believing in himself again. He played in 14 matches and scored four goals for FC Pinzgau, per Footy Stats. He impressed the RSL brass so much that the club brought him back and eventually gave him that first-team contract he’d dreamed about since his days at the academy in Casa Grande, Arizona.

When the COVID-19 pandemic reached Europe, the lockdowns were strict, and some of Brody’s teammates went home. But he stayed for four months and trained on his own.

Quitting just isn’t how Brody is wired.

RSL coach Freddy Juarez said of one Brody’s best attributes is he has the “mentality of a warrior.” Kraus said he has a “gladiator mentality” on the field.

And even though he lost confidence along the way, Brody found it again in Austria and now that he’s with RSL, he wants it to stay that way.

“I still feel like I have to bring it every single game because I know what it’s like ... playing at those lower levels and I don’t want to go back,” Brody said.