Ryan Nelsen, nutmegging Pirlo and MLS. Toronto FC's New Zealand import talks about it all with Football.com
By Oliver Wilson
There aren’t many players currently playing in Major League Soccer who can say they’ve nutmegged one of Italy’s greatest players of the modern age.
Andrea Pirlo scored a magnificent free-kick on his 100th appearance for his country last week, and instantly social media sites and web pages were rolling out across the Internet singing the praises of one of the true pass masters of the modern game. There’s no doubt that Pirlo is as influential as any of football’s current stars and has been the catalyst for Juventus’ last two Serie A titles, so it was no surprise to see the adoration of fans and journalists alike hording the pages of the web. It was, however, a surprise to see this:
“What a strike by Pirlo! I nutmegged him in a friendly before the last confeds cup #claimtofame”
Who was this making such an outlandish statement just minutes after one of the crowning moments of an Italian football hero’s career? More important than that was the question, can you prove it?
So I asked:
"@JRBrockie please post link to video #proof"
“I normally save it for when he’s [Pirlo] banging in free-kicks on his 100th cap,” was the reply I got a few days later when I spoke to @JRBrockie.
Jeremy Brockie, Toronto FC’s loan signing from New Zealand might not be a household name to many football fans but his claim to fame is as real as it gets and one that he remembers well.
It’s a very good memory,” continued the 25-year-old.
“We played Italy in 2009 before the last Confederations Cup and we played quite well against them. We ended up losing 4-3 but it was a nice little nutmeg in front of our bench. He [Pirlo] came rushing over and I just popped it between his legs. I remember watching the replay on the bus just after the game and the commentator said that it would be something, ‘that that young man will talk about for the rest of his career’.”
Four years on and Jeremy is still joking about it.
“I’m not to sure what I ended up doing with the ball afterwards, I probably just tripped over it with the surprise that I got it between his legs but it’s definitely a very good memory to have.
“He stayed clear of me because of that. I ended up getting Di Rossi’s shirt instead at the end of the game.”
The New Zealand international joined his current club, Toronto, on loan in early May and although he hasn’t had the opportunity to tick anymore names off his list of high profile players to nutmeg, Brockie has enjoyed his time in Canada so far, especially working under his former teammate Ryan Nelsen.
“When I got the opportunity to come over to Toronto in our off season back home I jumped at the opportunity and to be managed by Ryan Nelsen, who’s an absolute football god within the New Zealand ranks, it was a great opportunity.
Some people may find it a little strange to work in a situation where their boss is someone who they’ve spent some truly incredible moments working together but both Nelson, or Nelly to his former players, and Brockie have adapted to the situation well, despite both being involved as players in the great New Zealand side went to the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.
“He’s a good guy and very professional,” continued the Wellington Phoenix man.
“Being a manager you have to distance yourself a little bit from the playing squad a little bit. He still likes to get involved in the boxes when we’re warming up in training but he’s a very professional guy and he’s made the transition from a player to manager very quickly.”
“When you play with him, or when you play with players, you talk to each other through nicknames and obviously Ryan’s is ‘Nelly’, so when I was talking to him on the phone I asked, ‘how do I address you, do I call you Ryan or Nelly or what do I call you?’ and he said, ‘Look, call me whatever you want. You’ll probably be calling me a couple of bad things if I’m not playing you’.”
Nelsen’s move to management was a great surprise as he jumped from the sinking ship that was Queens Park Rangers midway through their Premier League season, to hang up his playing boots and take his first role as a head coach in Toronto. In his home country, the press and fans alike were taken aback by Nelsen’s sudden career change.
“It was obviously a big surprise because he was still playing and performing very well for QPR at the time,” recalled Brockie
“We do rely on him for the national team, he’s a big part of it, so it was a massive surprise for him to hang his boots up and there was a bit of a state of shock through the media asking who’s going to replace him for our up coming world cup qualifying games in November and can we qualify without him?
“He’s always been a leader on the park and in the changing rooms as a player and personally from my dealings with him when I was playing with him as a player, I thought that he’d make a very good manager one day.
“Obviously it’s come a little bit earlier than a lot of people expected but he’s definitely the man around Toronto at the moment.”
Brockie has seen the pitch just four times thanks to his compatriot’s squad choices, although the forward has come to North America after taking a month off during the A-League’s off-season. When he has played, however, Brockie has looked at home in Toronto, laying on an assist for Jonathan Osorio in his side’s 1-1 draw with the Philadelphia Union. With only a choice selection of MLS highlights available to watch in New Zealand, Jeremy has no problem in saying that he knows very little about the teams and players he’s meeting on the weekends, but is unfazed by the idea of meeting unknown opposition, highlighting his naivety as a positive to his mental preparation before he meets the sides like the Houston Dynamo, as he will this coming weekend in Texas.
“I only knew a little bit about the MLS from watching little bits and pieces on TV back in New Zealand, they don’t show too much.”
“I don’t know too much about them or their home record so if I get on the pitch it’ll be business as usual.
“I actually played at their stadium last year with the New Zealand national team and it’s a great little stadium and all the boys have been saying how hot it’s going to be for the game and such but I’m used to that hot weather when we play in Australia every second weekend so I’m looking forward to it.”
His loan spell at Toronto will come to an end in August and Brockie will return to prepare for the start of his A-League season in Wellington. His time, though, in MLS has already convinced him that a move to North America wouldn’t be a bad idea.
“I’ve still got another two years on my contract back in Wellington and I’ve been playing in the A-League for seven or eight years now and this is a great opportunity to come over and play in a different professional league and test myself. I haven’t got too much game time yet but I feel that, in the game time I’ve got, I haven’t felt out of place and I’m definitely always open to options.
“It’s a very world wide shown league and you never know who’s watching at anytime to help you go to that next level.”