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At St. Joseph’s University, soccer is the international language

November 7, 2022 Andy Furman
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He teaches Spanish at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School, and he speaks fluent French. Together, they do their talking on the soccer pitch for Brooklyn’s St. Joseph’s University.

Adam Brunengo just completed his fourth season as head coach of the Bears after a very successful nine-year run as the varsity boys soccer coach at Monsignor McClancy Memorial High School in East Elmhurst where he led the Crusaders to five CHSAA “A” Division city titles in 2009, 2011, 2013 and 2014.

He knows soccer, and Spanish.

Yes, he’s been teaching Spanish at McClancy for the last 14 years.

“It’s challenging,” he admitted to the Brooklyn Eagle, “Most all our coaches here at St. Joseph’s are part-time.”

Brunengo also notes that most of his players are commuters.

“We only have three living in the dorms,” he said.

One of those is a 21-year-old sophomore, Victor Naci, who hails from Bordeaux, France/Bernard Palissy.

Naci carried the Bears to a 6-6-4 won-loss-tied record this past season, the first non-losing record, according to Brunengo.

What Naci did, well, was nothing short of amazing.

He scored goals in all but one game for St. Joseph’s – two-plus goals six times – which included a pair of hat tricks.

Did we mention he was also named Skyline Conference Offensive Player of the Week, for consecutive weeks, logging nine goals and a pair of assists in that span.

He currently leads the NCAA Division III in goals, goals-per-game, points, and points-per-game. He’s also second in game-winning goals.

From Bordeaux to Brooklyn… how?

“He sent me a video,” Brunengo said, “with his highlights from Junior College, and I really liked what I saw.”

In fact, the coach added: “He’s better than what I thought he’d be.”

Naci previously played his college soccer at Neosho County Community College in Kansas.

“I’ve never been to Brooklyn before,” Naci told the Eagle, “But I really wanted to come to a big city.”

Naci claims there’s not much of a skill difference between his high school teammates in France, and his fellow Bear-mates.

“If there is any difference,” he said, “it’s the training – it’s better here.”

He says in France it’s very difficult meshing school work and soccer. In fact, he says, many schools don’t even field teams.

But the competition, he adds, is better in France.

“In France,” he says, “Everyone wants to play soccer. In France, soccer is No. 1.”

But the bigger difference for Naci is off the pitch, it’s the food. 

“I did find a French Restaurant near campus on Clark Street,” Naci said.

One thing he finds to his liking: his schoolwork.

The marketing major has a 3.5 grade-point-average, and, at times he says some of his testing is done orally because of the language barrier.

“He’s a great teammate,” his coach adds, “very likeable, to all in the athletic department.”

Soccer – at least on the Division III collegiate level – is quite challenging, according to Brunengo. “We don’t have athletic scholarships; and we’re always looking for good athletes.”

With no real pitch to call home, the Bears play their games at Randall’s Island or Aviator Field in Brooklyn. 

As for his recruit he says, “Victor is right up there. He’s one of the best I’ve ever coached. I like his maturity and the way he carries himself, with and without the ball.”

Adam Brunengo has played soccer since he was four-years-old. His brother was a performer on the Youth National Team, and played at St. John’s University.

“I’ve always wanted to coach college soccer,” he said. “I’ve dreamed of building something from the ground up.”

At St. Joseph’s University he just may be doing that – he’s got 10 or 11 sophomores or juniors on his roster.

It really doesn’t matter that Brunengo doesn’t speak French.

He’s shown soccer is truly the universal language.

Andy Furman is a Fox Sports Radio national talk show host. Previously, he was a scholastic sports columnist for the Brooklyn Eagle. He may be reached at: [email protected] Twitter: @AndyFurmanFSR

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