While it is by now ingrained in most people’s minds that four graduated members from the 2009-10 men’s basketball roster are joining the big ranks in the pros, one more low-key sport from last school year also sent a player to the next level. Matt Bouraee ’10, a former starting forward for the Red, has been practicing with the Red Bulls in New York for the past month and loves every minute of it.
“The transition to play with the Red Bulls exists because their level of competition is high and so is the speed of play,” Bouraee said.
Despite the new setting, however, Bouraee continues to excel as he did back on Berman Field. Much of his success can be attributed to the people that he interacted with here on East Hill.
“The Red prepared me to play for the Red Bulls,” he said. “[Assistant coach Joe] Schneck worked with me and trained me pretty well, teaching me how to enhance my ability and grasp of the ball. [Former head coach Bryan] Scales also worked with me for three years, and he challenged me to hold and protect the ball against big defenders. [Head coach Jaro Zawislan] also really enhanced my knowledge of the game, focusing more on tactical aspects and game strategy.”
The Cornell influence that Bouraee received does not stop there. He trained with the Academy team for the Red Bulls in the U23s category over the summer, and worked closely with an assistant coach Rob Elliot ’97.
“Elliot demanded that I play a certain style that was really fitting for me,” Bouraee said. “And this was a stepping ladder to succeed at this level.”
Bouraee added that it was his play with the Academy team that helped him get as far as he is today –– called in frequently to play with the Red Bulls at the full professional level. Bouraee boasted outstanding statistics while with the Academy, recording 11 goals and four assists over the span of just 13 games –– numbers that led the country and league.
So far, Bouraee has made a fine adjustment to MLS play. However, he noted that as has big shoes to fill, there comes a certain responsibility.
“The other players are just more advanced in every regard. They’re faster, stronger and perfect on the defense. They know exactly what to do in everything. They’re almost like the next stage in evolution,” he said of his new teammates compared to players at the collegiate Division I level.
Additionally, Bouaree takes to the field with the likes of Thierry Henry –– a big name in soccer who is a French national champion and top scorer of all-time, as well as a player for Arsenal and Barcelone. This international star has three World Cup wins attached to his name along with various Player of the Year titles.
“First, it was overwhelming eating lunch with [Henry],” Bouraee said. “It’s pretty amazing … then you have to realize that as a pro, you need to do your job and defend and attack with him. On the field, you have to eliminate the thought of who he is and focus on playing the game.”
Still, Bouaree noted that it is nice to be able to get playing tips from Henry and another huge soccer star, Juan Pablo Angel, since both of these celebrities play his position for the Red Bulls.
“The older guys are all really supportive of the younger players. They’re all giving advice on how to improve,” Bouraee said.
As Bouraee is the only graduate of the 2009 men’s soccer roster to go professional, though, he is not all alone. Bouraee has seen an opponent from his Ivy League days: former goalkeeper for Penn, Danny Cepero.
Cepero played with the Red Bulls on loan over the summer while Bouraee was there, and the Cornell alumnus noted that it was nice to see a familiar face. Cepero, who initially made his debut professional appearance with the Red Bulls in 2008, was the first MLS goaltender in history to score a goal during open play.
The brief stint with Cepero was the only college rival that Bouaree has made contact with, and thus he is pretty much on his own coming from his ECAC days.
“The progress is a slow process, but I think I’m making way,” he said.
Original Author: Reena Gilani