Special to BradleyBraves.com by Mackenzie Westcott
The Bradley Men's Soccer Team has roared out to a 4-2-1 start to the 2009 season thanks largely in part to senior forward Chris Cutshaw. This is the final season for the Carmel, Indiana native, and Cutshaw says he is looking forward to what the new squad will accomplish after the disappointing end to last year. Head coach Jim DeRose says that Bradley has "lofty goals for our program" but doesn't think it will be a problem with how well this year's team has been performing. DeRose attributes much of this success to team leaders such as Cutshaw.
Since arriving on Bradley's campus, Cutshaw has shown that he is a force to be reckoned with. During his freshman year, Cutshaw was named the Missouri Valley Conference Offensive Player of the Week twice and became the first-ever Bradley player to score a goal in each of his first two games. In his postseason accolades, he racked up All-MVC Second Team honors, CollegeSoccerNews.com Freshman All-America 3rd Team, and MVC Freshman of the Year.
The 2007 season for Cutshaw and the Braves was nothing short of a dream come true. During the team's run to the NCAA Tournament, Cutshaw won the Prairie Farms/MVC Scholar-Athlete of the Week and Bradley's Country Financial Scholar-Athlete of the Week, in addition to being named to The Valley's Scholar-Athlete Team. While in the tournament, Cutshaw nailed the deciding penalty kick in Bradley's second round victory over Indiana, and scored the tying goal in the closing seconds and winning goal in overtime against Maryland in the third round. The team finished with a record of 16-6-4 and ended the season in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Cutshaw continued his success into his junior year, despite it being a rebuilding year for the team. He opened the season by being named the MVC's Offensive Player of the Week in addition to being named to the CollegeSoccerNews.com and Soccer America Teams of the Week. He ended the season as Bradley's leading scorer with nine goals, and he entered the 2009 season as the Missouri Valley Conference's active leader in goals (he now leads all active Valley players with 29 career goals and 66 career points).
Bradley soccer fans have been highly anticipating the2009 Men's soccer season and Cutshaw seems just as optimistic. He says that the team is gelling together well and that he and fellow teammate Grant Campbell are looking forward to leading a successful season.
"Trying to get back to the NCAA Tournament, that's our only goal this year," says Cutshaw.
Well, the Braves are out to a good start, largely due to the play of Cutshaw and Campbell, both of whom got the opportunity to play together in the Premier Development League (PDL) earlier this summer. Both Braves teamed on the Chicago Fire Premier and Cutshaw was the team's second leading scorer.
Cutshaw says the PDL is great for exposure and the learning curve is high.
"All the best players in the nation looking to go to the next level play in that league," said Bradley's star forward.
The Chicago Fire Premier ended with a record of 10-1-5 and were the runners-up in the PDL playoffs, while also earning a spot in the main draw of the 2009 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup.
Cutshaw claims that he was also able to take away some valuable tools from playing in the PDL that he can implement at Bradley. His game has evolved to include more aspects such as playing smarter, being physical and valuing possession of the ball.
DeRose also praises Cutshaw's improvement: "That mentality that Chris brings of competitiveness and willingness to do what's necessary is the biggest thing that he learned."
DeRose also says that Cutshaw is showing his ability to involve teammates and have an urgency throughout the game when receiving the ball from fellow players. Cutshaw's urgency has certainly been evident throughout Bradley's first seven games, as the forward has already found the back of the net seven times. He has scored a pair of game-winners and punched in the game's opening goal in two other games. And in Bradley's game against Mercer and former Braves associate head coach Brad Ruzzo, Cutshaw recorded the seventh hat trick in program history.
Recently, the Braves broke into CollegeSoccerNews.com's Top 30, coming in at 28 for the week of September 13. Fox Soccer Channel also decided to air Bradley's game against Memphis for the opening game of the NSCAA Game-of-the-Week package. DeRose credited the national television broadcast to Fox hearing great things about the community's support of Bradley soccer and they wanted to see what Peoria was all about. With all of the excitement this year surrounding Bradley Men's Soccer, it's safe to say it will be another great year for senior Chris Cutshaw and the Bradley Braves.