By KEVIN OKLOBZIJA
Brooke Barbuto knows soccer has been very good to her.
Because she can dribble, shoot, anticipate, defend and battle exceptionally well, she was able to play professionally for the Western New York Flash, as well as in Iceland, Finland and Australia.
Those playing adventures allowed her to then see even more of the world. She took advantage of her free time while on other continents to visit places like Italy, Portugal, Spain and Dubai.
“I hadn’t been to Europe before playing overseas, but once you’re over there, it’s so cheap and easy to get around,” said Barbuto, a 31-year-old native of Syracuse.
She was very good to soccer, too. She was the MVP in the Finnish league one year. Last year she earned the golden boot from Peninsula Power and Football Brisbane. The team she played for, Peninsula Power, went undefeated and won the premiership and playoff championships.
Now that’s called a great season.
Which is in many ways how she ended up back on U.S. soil, in New York, and living in her native Syracuse while playing for the Rochester Lady Lancers in United Women’s Soccer.
“I felt like we accomplished a lot as a team and I felt like I reached a high in my career,” she said. “We went undefeated, we won the championship.”
And so, after spending so much time away from home, she decided it was time to transition into coaching. The Lady Lancers give her an opportunity to play at a high level while she gains even more coaching experience with the Syracuse Development Academy. She is the assistant to head coach Sal Galvano.
“It’s been nice to play back in the States and have your friends and family come and watch,” said Barbuto, who played NCAA Division I soccer at Stony Brook University.
As you may have guessed, Barbuto is a UWS star. She leads the league in points (16) and is tied for the lead in goals (seven). More importantly, the Lady Lancers are in first place in the East Conference with a 4-1-2 record and 14 points.
They have three regular-season games remaining, including a 2 p.m. showdown against the Western New York Flash at Marina Auto Stadium in downtown Rochester. The Flash are 4-2-0 and have 12 points, so first place will be on the line.
“It’s been very enjoyable,” she said. “Their goal was at the outset was to do better than last year.”
Considering the Lady Lancers went 0-9-1 a year ago and then went 1-0-1 on their season-opening road trip in May, that goal needed an immediate readjustment.
Barbuto and Swedish native Elin Eklund (six goals, third in UWS scoring with 13 points) give the Lancers a dynamic 1-2 punch at forward and midfield. They have played a rather stingy defense and are positioned for a playoff berth in just the second season of existence.
“Once we came together as a team and saw what we had as a whole, I think we realized what we can accomplish,” Barbuto said.