From Brooklyn to the Bronx, New York City’s public pitches are brimming with talented soccer players. One evening, you may randomly end up playing with or against a pro — like Brayan Reyes.
I first met Reyes two weeks ago when my soccer team needed a few extra players for a Monday night game at Pier 5. My teammate Juan said he could bring a few friends and he arrived with Reyes.
After a few minutes of warming up, Juan informed me that Reyes, who grew up in the Bronx, played for Platense, a club in Honduras’ first division. “Yes!” I thought. “We have a ringer.”
And Reyes, of course, is a great player. He has good pace, excellent touch, a strong presence and an intuitive sense of where he is most needed on the field. But more importantly, he was also a cool and humble guy. It was a pleasure to play with him.
When Platense’s season ended, Reyes returned to the US to visit his family in Morrisania. He moved there from Honduras when he was 8 and grew up in the neighborhood, playing at Stevenson High School, Manhattan Soccer Club and the parks around nearby Yankee Stadium.
After a year at Bryant & Stratton College in Syracuse, Reyes left school and joined his cousin Luis Ramos in Hungary, where Ramos played professionally. Soon, Reyes landed a spot on Szeged in Hungary’s second division. He briefly moved to Hajdúböszörmény — a word you might type if you sat on your laptop keyboard — before joining Platense in Puerto Cortes, Honduras. The midfielder appeared in 14 matches last season.
A few days after our game, Reyes spoke with Soccer in NYC about his childhood in the Bronx, his career with Platense and his dream of someday joining NYCFC a few blocks from his childhood home.
Tell me about your background. Where did you grow up and where did you play soccer?
I moved to the Bronx from Honduras in 2003 when I was 8 years old, going on 9. I moved for better opportunities. My mom was already here and she brought me. I lived in the Bronx until I was 19.
I played soccer all day every day that I could.
I played for Manhattan Soccer Club starting when I was 10. Eventually, I played high school soccer at Stevenson High School and got a scholarship to D3 Bryant & Stratton College in Syracuse.
Who were the best players you played with or against in New York City?
Leonardo [Fernandes], who played at Gotschee and then the Philadelphia Union — he plays for the Tampa Bay Rowdies now. And I also played with Jack Harrison, who was with NYCFC [Harrison was the #1 overall pick in the 2016 MLS Draft and signed with Manchester City in 2018. He is now on loan at Middlesbrough].
What parks did you play at? Where was your favorite place to play?
I usually played at the fields right in front of Yankee Stadium. Those would be my fields. We played at Pier 40 and Riverside Park at 103rd Street [on the Westside].
Pier 40 pick up games with the MSC boys — that was my favorite. Randall’s Island was good too.
READ MORE: Soccer in the Shadow of NYCFC’s Stadium
Any parks that you disliked?
None. As long as there was a soccer ball there it was fun for me. I didn’t care about the field — it could be concrete; it could be a messed up field. As long as I was playing, it was fine.
How did you connect with the club in Hungary?
I played in college for a year and got a call from my cousin in Hungary. He asked if I wanted to join his club and I took the opportunity. I couldn’t say no to that. From then on I decided to dedicate my life to soccer.
Did you envision a career as a pro soccer player when you were growing up?
I dreamed about it. And I believe that anything you can imagine, you can achieve. At one point in my life, I was actually thinking I really want this career for myself. I want to bring my family out of not having a lot and be able to help my them and others as well. I felt like being a pro would give me chance to provide for my family.
Was it hard to live and play in Hungary?
The language was different so someone had to translate to me. But people were cool and I have no complaints. The food was great.
The football was more technical there. It was tactical and not as tough as the Honduran league.
What brought you back to Honduras?
My cousin Anthony [Anthony “Choco” Lozano is a striker for Girona and the Honduran National Team] helped me out because he used to play in Honduras and had connections. I connected with a talent scout who sends players to different clubs and he sent me for a tryout with Platense.
It was challenging to go back to Honduras because I left when I was really young. But one of my dreams was to play in the Honduran Premier League and it’s been a great experience.
I have my own apartment in Puerto Cortés and it’s close to the stadium to I walk to practice.
Are you a local celebrity?
Haha if I walk around, people recognize me.
What are your goals for the future?
My dream is to come back and play in the MLS. I like NYC and Houston Dynamo.
I have family there. And I love the city. It’s a real chill city. Plus, three Honduran guys play there.
And I like NYC because I feel like I’m home.
Who are you rooting for in the World Cup?
I’ll say Germany. I like their style.
Where will you watch the tournament?
I’ll be going to my girlfriend’s house and watching at home. Or I’ll watch at my dad’s house.
Does you family ever get a chance to come to your games?
My mom and siblings [Reyes has an older sister, younger sister and a younger brother who is an artist and plays piano] watched me here playing for MSC. My dad watches me play in Honduras. I didn’t grow up with my dad so to have him at the stadium is like a dream. It’s a great experience to have him there.
He must be proud.
He’s really proud. He tells me that.