Looking around Rio Tinto Stadium at 16, Andrew Brody’s dream was to play for the senior team and lead them to silverware. He’s living part of that dream now playing left back with Real Salt Lake while they sit fourth in the Western Conference but it didn’t come without a stop in Austria, taking up a job as an Uber driver and almost completely retiring from the sport along the way.
Brody’s fascinating story began fresh out of college at the University of Louisville and under the Real Salt Lake system with the Real Monarchs, their then-USL Championship affiliate. It proved to be a solid place to hone in his skills as a young player with regular minutes, all while getting a whiff of what life is like playing against pros. But when the path to the senior team under their pipeline didn’t seem realistic, Brody began to survey his options. After four years with the Monarchs, Brody became an Uber driver on the side as a part-time hustle as he figured out his future plans.
That’s when opportunity struck in the most unlikely of placers: The third division of Austrian football with FC Pinzgau Saalfelden, located in Salzburg with a population of approximately 16,000. He joined the club on a one-year loan which he described as a life-changing experience. Brody was lacking confidence after his struggles to break into the first team and was even considering retirement. There wasn’t interest from other USL or even MLS teams him but Austria somehow came calling.
“I really jumped at [the move] because it allowed me to see the game in a completely new light,” Brody said. “Being able to experience playing overseas was something I always wanted to do even if it was the third division in Austria. It was still a unique opportunity. I think a lot of players don’t really get the chance in their careers.
“So I was like, you know what, why not. And then from there, that’s really when things started to change for me. I think my confidence started to rise again.”
The freedom that a move like this provided wound up recalibrating the course of his career as he was able to focus on his craft and not worry about getting a contract extension. He was also able to work under a coach who was once a top player in Christian Ziege, who earned his fame at Bayern Munich and AC Milan. Brody credits Ziege with restoring his confidence. One question from Ziege he’ll never forget was when he was asked how he was he not with Salt Lake’s first team. Brody’s answer was simply that he’s been told no year after year.
But hearing he was good enough from Ziege, who played at big European clubs as a left wing back, Brody’s favored position, went a long way. During the time, Brody also met Chris Wingert, who played 10 seasons at Real Salt Lake, and began working with him which also led to him joining Roc Nation as a client. The 12-month experience in Austria along with moving to an agency that valued him helped propel Brody when he came back to Real Salt Lake in 2020 to fight for a place in the senior team.
This season, Brody has played in every game for Real Salt lake under Pablo Mastroeni. The past several weeks have been a whirlwind for him. Not only did he sign a new contract with the team, but he also scored his first career goal for the club.
“First and foremost, signing the new contract and being able to commit my future here to Real Salt Lake, the club I’ve been a part of since I was 16 years old is honestly a dream come true.” Brody said when asked about the extension, “I’m so happy to be able to keep developing here. Keep working here. Keep getting better under Pablo and the coaching staff and seeing what we can accomplish here.”
Coming off the highs of signing a new extension, Brody scored the winner against Austin FC.
He was asked about his lack of a celebration when he scored the goal, Brody admitted he couldn’t think of one. “I didn’t have a celebration planned because I didn’t think I was going to score,” said Brody. The win was an important one as it was another match that helped Real Salt Lake put a heavy 6-0 loss to New York City FC behind them.
Since that match, the team has only allowed four goals while going 3-1-1 in MLS play. That’s something that Brody and the defensive unit takes pride in.
“We knew after that game, that it had to be better,” Brody said. “We take full ownership because that wasn’t good enough. But at the end of the day, it’s just one game, you know? That game doesn’t define us as a defensive unit and [the response was] how could we be more collective? How could we be tougher to break down?
“And then from there was being tough to play against, communicating well in the back, and really taking pride in our defending. And I think it showed in the games since that New York game.”
It’s easier to get those results with the team having more fan support now that they’re under new ownership as Dell Loy Hansen was forced to sell the team due to racist remarks and the hostile work environment created under his leadership. With his removal, the breath of fresh air at Rio Tinto can be felt by everyone from the fans to the players on the field. Real Salt Lake games are can’t-miss affairs leading to four consecutive sellouts with a chance at a fifth on Saturday against the Houston Dynamo.
“It really drives us it pushes us on late in games, playing at home. We really tried to make the ride a fortress and I think that all starts with the fans. They make it a tough place to play,” Brody said when asked about the role of fans in their success. “They really get behind us and that that drives us on, you know, even late in the games. You don’t see anybody leave and everybody’s still there believing in us, believing that we can score late goals. And I think that has shown in our play.”
There has been a lot of change in the squad this season with Albert Rusnak moving to the Seattle Sounders as a free agent, but they haven’t missed a beat in the league against all odds. To an extent, there’s some similarities with Brody’s story. Even when doubted, he persisted and was able to make his mark with the first team. Now with a new contract, he will use that resiliency and drive to help keep him there.