Team chemistry bolsters Brilla ahead of playoffs

Published: Jul. 6, 2021 at 8:06 PM CDT
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CLINTON, Miss. (WLBT) - An eight-hour bus ride back to Mississippi never felt so good.

Fresh off of a 5-0 victory over Brazos Valley, the Mississippi Brilla players and staff loaded up, not caring at all how long the ride would take. All that mattered was that they knew they were going back to the USL League 2 playoffs for the first time since 2017.

“Everyone was singing songs, chanting and cheering,” Brilla midfielder Jamie Diluzio recalled. “It was just awesome having that winning feeling that every soccer player hopes to have.”

That winning feeling is bred from going through a crash course in team building this summer. With just two matches to go before the playoffs, the Brilla already have 12 matches under their belt with just one loss.

The math to that winning formula doesn’t quite make sense considering that the team held its first practice just a week before the first game back in May – and some of the players, who hail from different parts of the country and world, didn’t make it to Mississippi until after that due to different travel logistics.

But when head coach Luke Sanford constructed this roster in the offseason, he made sure he was bringing in talented men and not just talented players.

“In this league, you don’t get much of a preseason,” Sanford explained. “So it’s important to do your homework on the front end and talking to coaches asking what kind of teammate are they.

“This is a really good group of guys, and I think that has been a contributing factor to their success as much as anything.”

With the players living in the dorms at Mississippi College, it doesn’t matter if some are college teammates, were a part of the Brilla in previous summers, or meeting each other for the first time; they get acquainted with one another quickly.

Lunch and dinner are often spent together, practice is obviously spent together, and with major international soccer tournaments happening across the world right now, a lot of leisure time in front of the TV is shared as well.

“The Euros are going on right now, so off the field we watch a lot of games and Copa America too,” said forward Jalen James. “Eating lunch and dinner together, so spending that time together off the field has helped us translate it to the game and score a lot of goals.”

James and the Brilla will look to continue to score a lot of goals in their final home game of the regular season on Wednesday against AHFC Royals. Kick-off is set for 7 p.m. at Clinton High School, and admission is free.

On Tuesday, the USL League 2 also announced that the Brilla would be one of six hosts for the conference quarter and semifinals, which is scheduled for July 16-18.

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