2009-03-26 / Sports

Brandao ready to kick off pro career

BY JIMMY ALLINDER Correspondent

The slogan on the gigantic billboards across the state proclaim about Rutgers: "New Jersey Roots, Global Reach."

That also describes one of its loyal daughters who have been making her mark in the women's soccer world. Her name is Kimberly Brandao, a 2006 graduate, who played center-back for the Scarlet woman's soccer team. During her four seasons, she was captain her junior and senior years, named MVP both times and selected All-Big East every year.

A resident of East Brunswick, Brandao is about to embark on a lifelong ambition of playing soccer professionally. As for whom, Brandao has yet to decide, but has offers from professional entries in the new United Soccer Leagues' W-League. Rather than be drafted, players can entertain offers and decide on their futures. Brandao hopes to make a decision by the end of this week.

Since graduating from Rutgers, Brandao has continued to play soccer. Brandao and her sister, Lissette, have just completed a stint as members of the Portuguese National Team at the Algarve Cup held last month in Portugal. Yes, the Portuguese National Team. While born in the United States, because of their Portuguese bloodline, Kim and Lissette Brandao were eligible to play with for European team.

"Playing for the Portuguese National Team has been an amazing experience and I'm very honored to play for my blood country," Kim Brandao said. "It has opened so many doors and has taught me more about my heritage. My family [growing up in Rahway] always practiced Portuguese customs, especially during the holidays, so I always felt being part of that country as much as I was an American."

Because of the reputation she gained at Rutgers, Kim Brandao and her sister received invitations from the Portugal National Team to participate in a tryout at the New Jersey Institute of Technology. Representatives from the team came to the United States looking for potential members to help build a program relatively new to the international scene. After Kim Brandao acquired Portuguese citizenship (a process which took over two years), she attended training camps in Portugal and finally suited up for her first match in October 2007, playing against Denmark in Viborg.

She and her sister continue to play with the Portuguese National Team, crossing the Atlantic Ocean when the team plays in tournaments and matches.

With the advent of the USL W-League, as it's called, this summer, Brandao will look to join one of the teams. "Teams are located across the U.S. and in parts of Canada. Most are amateur but I have been offered a chance to play full time professionally. It's an opportunity I've dreamed about."

When not playing soccer, Kimberly Brandao utilizes the sociology degree she earned at Rutgers as a residential counselor for Triple C Housing, which maintains locations throughout New Jersey.

"At Rutgers, I had a great relationship with my head coach, Glen Crooks, and associate head coach, Mike Neill," Brandao said. "Both were instrumental in my personal development as a soccer player."

"I remember my assistant and I was going through our roster," said Crooks, "and we selected players we could count on every moment of the day. Kimberly was one of a small group we picked. That is the thing that will always stand out about Kim — her consistency. She is a great player who showed up to play every day. I had been watching her since she was in eighth grade and was thankful she chose Rutgers. Not coincidentally, the best year in the history of the program was Kim's senior year."

Finally, Kimberly credits the support she has received from her parents and boyfriend, Oliver. "My dad introduced me to soccer and was my coach in youth soccer for my hometown team. Oliver [who comes from England] is my biggest fan and helps me with everything related to soccer. It's important to have that support.

"Even as I play professionally," she said, "I plan to continue playing for the Portuguese National Team. Soccer will always be a part of my life."

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