Bersano Adjusts to Pro Game in Rookie Season
By Keeler McJunkin
Matt Bersano is staying focused on development after his first year of professional soccer.
The former Lane United and current Seattle Sounders 2 goalkeeper played in only two games this season, but spent time training with the first teams of both the Sounders and the Chicago Fire before signing with Seattle.
Bersano, who played his fifth-year senior season at Penn State after spending the first four seasons at Oregon State, said the mentality of the pro game is the biggest difference between what he experienced playing both college soccer and two seasons with Lane United in the PDL.
“You can tell who has been a pro for a long time and you can tell who is a rookie,” Bersano said. “The way guys carry themselves and come to work is different. We’re playing the game we love, but it’s also a business.”
While he would have certainly liked to be on the field for more minutes throughout his rookie season, learning the day by day aspect of being a pro and developing as a goalkeeper at the highest level of the sport were Bersano’s main goals for the year.
For a younger goalkeeper, sitting on the bench is all about patience. You have to wait for your time and need to be ready for whatever opportunity presents itself. That mindset came to fruition for Bersano earlier this season.
“I didn’t play for 27 games straight, then had to go in during the 80th minute because of a concussion to the other goalkeeper,” Bersano said. “I had to make a breakaway save in the 86th, then we scored in the 90th to tie the game. It’s all about making yourself as ready as you can be and making the most out of your situation.”
Bersano has also made the most of time spent on the practice field with the Sounders first team. Whether that’s learning from veteran teammates or just soaking in the atmosphere of the pro game, he’s been able to get a feel of what being a pro entails.
Training with the first team has allowed Bersano to be in goal and face shots from stars who have played at the highest level in this country like Clint Dempsey and Jordan Morris.
“I still had things to look forward to when I didn’t get the start on game day,” Bersano said. “I knew Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday I would be in with Clint and Jordan having them shoot on me. That gave me something to look forward to even when the game minutes weren’t coming my way.”
The two summers Bersano spent with Lane United were key in adjusting to the professional game. He said the structure of the club, and the way head coach John Galas organized practices and training in a professional environment opened his eyes to what the future with the Sounders would be like.
That first season with LUFC, Bersano played summer ball with his Oregon State teammate and good friend, Khiry Shelton, who joined the pro ranks with NYCFC after being selected second overall in the MLS Superdraft after the 2014 season with Lane United.
Shelton was able to get a year of professional soccer under his belt while Bersano spent 2015 with the Reds and his fifth-year senior season at Penn State. The two former teammates talk on a weekly, if not daily basis, and have helped each other with on the field situations and also life in general.
“I can call Matt at anytime, no matter what time of day and he’ll answer,” Shelton said. “We always talk about what we could do better at training and how we can better ourselves to make sure we are successful.”
After being on the same team for three years in Corvallis, followed by a summer with Lane United, being on different sides of the country hasn’t stopped Bersano and Shelton from communicating and helping each other. Their friendship might be even stronger now than it has ever been.
Bersano was able to keep Shelton on track through his rookie year with NYCFC, a season filled with missteps and adjustments as he tried to find his footing in the pro game.
“Seeing Khiry go through struggles with the injuries, he’s faced a lot trials through his experience with New York,” Bersano said. “He’s obviously prevailed, and has a great professionalism about him. He’s always there if I need something. Having a best friend in a similar situation to me, you can’t get any luckier than that.”
At the same time, Shelton has confided in Bersano whenever he needs it. No matter if he’s looking for advice, help with a problem, or just wanting to talk.
“Matt will always challenge me to be better and keep it real with me whether I want to hear it or not,” Shelton said. “People like him make me a better all around human whether on or off the pitch.”
As Bersano enters the offseason and prepares for his second year as a pro, he’s focused on taking what he learned as a rookie and using that experience to get more time on the field next year and beyond.
“Any competitive professional would have loved more minutes this year,” Bersano said. “At the same time, I’m trying to play for 15 years so at the end of the day it’s all about taking in what you can to make for a better career in the long run.”