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Big Red to Red Bulls: Alumnus seizes summer soccer opportunity

Matt Bouraee at Red Bulls training camp

From left: Cornell assistant coach Joe Schneck, New York Red Bulls player Thierry Henry and Matt Bouraee '10 Aug. 5 at the Red Bulls training facility at Montclair State University in Montclair, N.J.

Over the last few weeks, the New York Red Bulls of Major League Soccer have bolstered their roster with the addition of two of the world's top players in forward Thierry Henry and midfielder Rafael Marquez. But one lesser-known player has also been invited to train with the Red Bulls: Cornell alumnus Matt Bouraee.

Bouraee, who graduated from Cornell in May, initially trained with the Red Bulls in early July, but was called back to a training session with the club at the beginning of August. This time, he had the added bonus of training with the two most recent additions to the Red Bulls: France's Henry and Mexico's Marquez, two of the most decorated players in the world game.

"Their level of play is far beyond that of the other players," Bouraee said. "They're obviously at the top of their game, and they know what to do and what they can do with the ball. They're very quick and athletic and make a lot of the things they do on the field look very easy. Both are happy to be in New York and happy to help the team win."

After finishing up his playing career with the Big Red last November tied for seventh on Cornell's all-time scoring list, Bouraee earned The William Jefferson Clinton Scholarship to study at American University in Dubai, United Arab Emirates. While in Dubai, Bouraee trained with many of the top clubs in the UAE, but with new rules in that nation's domestic league limiting teams to four foreign players, his chances of staying on as a professional were dimmed.

Matt Bouraee playing for Cornell

Bouraee finished up his playing career with the Big Red last fall tied for seventh on Cornell's all-time scoring list.

Bouraee returned to the United States and continued playing with the Red Bulls U23 team, coached by former Cornell All-American Rob Elliott, where he was stellar in a short period of time, scoring 11 goals in 13 games. It was because of his play with the U23 team that he was spotted and given the initial invitation to train with the main club at their training facility at Montclair State University in New Jersey.

"They brought me in for training with the idea of being invited back for more sessions, and eventually possibly signing with the club," Bouraee said. "Unfortunately, my timing isn't the greatest, as they have three very good players at forward (Juan Pablo Angel, Macoumba Kandji and Henry), where I play, but it's been a great chance to experience the professional level and make memories I'll have for the rest of my life."

Bouraee said his biggest adjustment from the college game to the professional level has been with the mental aspect of the game.

"The players at that level are constantly communicating detailed information to each other, giving you a lot of eyes helping you out," he said. "The players know where the space on the field is, and they create the space for each other. Also, the decision-making is so quick at that level. Almost always, your first option is the best one, even if it's just a little short pass. You're trying to tire out the defense by keeping possession by using short, simple passes and saving your energy for when you need it."

Kevin Zeise is assistant director of athletics communications.

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