ï»¿“Thunk!” The sound of cleat meeting ball.
“Ohhhhh.” The murmur of anticipation circulating throughout an anxious crowd of spectators.
“Swish!” The music that is a soccer ball finding the back of the net.
“Ahhhhh!” The utter chaos that follows witnessing one of the most extraordinary goals in Linfield men’s soccer history.
On Sept. 30, Linfield defender Brad Dupea did something most soccer players only dream of. With his Wildcats already leading Pacific University 2-1, the defender stepped up to take a free kick from just beyond the midfield line in his own territory. What happened next was shocking, improbable, and put simply, perfect. With the wind at his back, Dupea struck the ball over the 20 players clustered into the 18-yard box – including Pacific goalkeeper Michael Summers – and into the back of the net.
The strike was reminiscent of David Beckham’s half-field goal while playing for Manchester United.
“I was just trying to drive it as hard as I could and keep it low,” Dupea said of his approach to the kick. “I knew the wind was at my back, and when it started to drop I felt like it was looking good.”
The goal was impressive for a number of reasons. The aesthetic pleasure of watching a perfectly struck ball cut through the air and puncture the net. The fact that it was the senior’s first career goal. In hindsight, perhaps the most auspicious element of the goal was that Dupea was just getting started.
Less than a week later, he scored his second career goal in another home match, this time against Willamette. As if it had suddenly become as routine as suiting up for a match, Dupea set up a free kick near midfield, ran up to the ball, and, well, sent it right where it belonged. Two set-piece half-field goals later, Dupea has surely become somewhat of a Wildcat soccer legend, and now has legitimate grounds to compare himself to Beckham. While the eighth-highest paid athlete in the world also had two memorable goals from beyond midfield, neither was on a set piece, and nearly a decade of play separated the two.
“For me, the first one was more incredible, because the keeper was huge and he looked completely shocked,” says teammate Jake Baker, recalling the mind-bending moment. “I was completely shocked and thought ‘what just happened?’ when it went in.”
Nizar Tarhuni agrees, saying, “It was unreal. I have never seen that happen before and like everyone else, I didn’t expect it to go in.”
Dupea’s claim to fame was all but prompt in arriving and the road leading up to it followed an indefinite number of twists and turns. “I decided to come to Linfield because of the Athletic Training program, and I remember being recruited at a tournament in high school,” Dupea says when asked why he chose to become a Wildcat.
While soccer was always part of his college plan, it required a transition to a new position. Dupea had been a forward and midfielder in high school, but said, “I knew that if I was going to play at the college level it would be in more of a center-back role.” Having played soccer since the age of 3, the switch from offense to defense went relatively smoothly for the 6-foot-2 senior from Tacoma, Wash.
When he’s not scoring seemingly impossible goals, Dupea fills a respectable and highly complex role on the team. “Brad is our rock,” says Wildcats coach Chuck Bechtol. “He’s very athletic, big and strong, and he runs the show in the back with our goalkeeper.”
Baker appreciates Dupea’s defensive presence as well, saying “Brad’s good at staying positive and he leads by example.” Dupea’s work ethic and focus are contagious throughout the team, particularly in the sense that his approach rubs off on other players. “Watching him take advice from the coaches really helps me when receiving instructions.”
Despite nagging injuries during much of the 2012 season, Dupea has played through pain and missed only one match (a non-conference contest against St. John’s University). “He has really battled through adversity and uses his work ethic and understanding of the game to act as a role model for the younger guys,” Bechtol said.
“Brad and I met our freshman year. It was basically me, him and Danny (Snelgrow) right from the start,” recalls Tarhuni about the instant bond he made with Dupea. “He was the first person I really hung out with and we have been friends all four years.”
While the friendships he fostered have remained steadfast throughout his time as a Wildcat, Dupea has faced several changes within the soccer program itself. The defender has adapted seamlessly to the transition from Scott Goodman to Grant Loriaux at goalkeeper after the prior was injured, explaining that both netminders are great to work with.
In terms of administrative changes, Dupea believes the new coaching staff has the program moving in the right direction. “We’ve had our ups and downs over the past few years but with Coach Bechtol everything is going really well,” said Dupea. “Our team chemistry has really improved compared to last year.”
Linfield (6-7, 4-5 Northwest Conference) sits in fifth place in the league standings with five contests remaining. “Our goals for the year are to finish in third place in conference and get our record over .500,” says Dupea. The Wildcats still have work to do, but with leaders such as Dupea, the results are all attainable.
Dupea expects to graduate in May with a bachelor’s degree in athletic training. He has yet to decide whether he will seek a job at a high school right away, or will pursue graduate school. While each path presents its pros and cons, being a member of the Linfield soccer program has undoubtedly prepared him for success.
“Brad has a good head on his shoulders and he will take the things he learned at Linfield to help him later down the road,” Bechtol says. “I think very highly of him as a player and as a person.”
While he has a ways to go before enjoying the kind of fame and fortune equal of Beckham, for the moment, Dupea is content to being his equal on the pitch.
-- Evan O'Kelly '13