Gamecocks play Elon Saturday in final exhibition game
When talented offensive players are asked to change roles for their teams’ sake, they tend to resist, but Braeden Troyer isn’t one of them.
The junior has gone from playing as an attacking midfielder to a center back on defense.
The change may seem odd — Troyer was last year’s second leading scorer — but coach Mark Berson sees it differently.
“We needed to solidify the back line,” Berson said. “We lost three of our four starters from last year. So we really needed a leader in the back, and Braeden can provide that.”
Berson said that Troyer’s leadership also comes with a strong skill set. The head coach called Troyer one of the best tacklers he’s ever seen.
“He reads the game exceptionally well,” Berson said. “In tackling, there’s a timing aspect, and his timing is impeccable. It’s like a sixth sense.”
Troyer did not hesitate with the change in position. He acknowledged that with some of last year’s leaders gone like forward Bradlee Baladez and defender Kevin Stam, everyone has more responsibility now. He will do whatever is in the best interest of the team.
Troyer said that his new role requires more communication and that he helps focus the team by staying positive.
“We don’t really have a star on the team,” Troyer said. “So we’re playing for each other.”
Troyer was named to the Conference USA All-Freshman Team in 2011 and the All-Conference USA Third Team. He followed that season with a second-team All-Conference selection in 2012.
But Troyer is humble about the recognition.
“It’s a nice honor, but most of it is because of the players I get to play with on the team,” he said. “If we’re not playing well, you don’t get those honors. I think an award like that, it’s for everybody too.”
Troyer attended Hammond School in Columbia, where he was a six-year letter winner and an ESPN Rise All-American.
Still, playing at South Carolina was a dream that seemed unimaginable, he said.
“I always came to the games when I was younger,” he said. “I always dreamed of playing soccer somewhere, but I never thought it would be South Carolina. It’s just really cool to play in front of my family.”
Troyer said that he keeps his family close and that he appreciates their support. They keep him upbeat, he said.
But the junior isn’t just known for what he does on the pitch, as Berson raved about Troyer’s demeanor off of it.
“Off the field, Braeden contributes as much or more as on the field,” Berson said. “He’s a wonderful human being. He’s virtually a straight-A student. He has great leadership qualities. He’s one of the guys on the team that everyone is confident to go and talk to.”
Troyer won several conference academic awards in the last two years, including the Commissioner’s Academic Medal.
In tight situations, when the Gamecocks need a goal, Berson said he may put Troyer on as an attacking midfielder. His versatility is a big help for USC, and with junior Asa Kryst looking like the potential go-to scorer, Troyer can settle in at defense, Berson said.
Last year, the Gamecocks’ defense gave up some late goals, costing them matches, and Berson said he hopes Troyer’s presence will make the team more composed in the back.
Berson also said that Troyer’s composure has improved throughout his time on the team.
Last season’s results led to the Gamecocks to a low ranking in this year’s pre-season polls, and
Troyer is honest about the team’s sub-par season.
“We had a rough year last season,” he said. “We weren’t a bad team last year at all; we were a great team. We just couldn’t get the results. We seemed to be losing games by one goal a lot. We didn’t get ranked very high in the team polls, but I think that’s motivation to have a good year.”
Troyer said the team’s first goal is to make — and win — the Conference USA playoffs.
Berson said that he knew the junior was going to be special after a solid freshman season and that Troyer has not disappointed.
“He is going to help establish our rhythm and tempo on offense too,” Berson said. “He’ll also be influential in the spirit of the team, too, because of the type of leader he is.”