Neco Brett wrestled off a North Carolina FC defender as he tried to win possession of a loose ball in the 27th minute of last weekend’s match at Highmark Stadium. The midfielder’s efforts paid off, and he dished a perfect ball to Robbie Mertz, who then buried the pass into the back of the net.
During his tenure with Pittsburgh Riverhounds SC, Brett’s assisting ability has earned him a reputation as one of the premier passers in the USL Championship. His knack for serving up chances to his teammates is well recognized, but it’s been his ability to serve team dinners that’s helped the club bond together off the field.
“I’ve been doing it for a long time,” Brett said on his cooking skills. “My mom is a good cook. Back home, my mom would help out at festivals and do stuff to help cook. I’ve learned a lot from her.”
For Brett, preparing meals to share with his teammates gives him a chance to do something he enjoys while spending quality time with teammates off the field.
It’s not unusual for several members of the club to head over to Brett’s apartment in the early evening. The group, usually comprised of players from around the globe, will enjoy some of the Jamaican-style cuisine and discuss each other's skills or talk about the team’s upcoming match.
“It means a lot," Brett said. "As soccer players when you get moments together, you sit down and talk about soccer. Just by sitting down you might learn something new about how a player plays which is always important.
“You want to know exactly how your teammates play. Sometimes they might tell you, ‘Whenever you see me make this move, this is where you should play the ball.’”
Midfielder Mouhamed Dabo often enjoys Brett’s dishes, and acknowledged that his cooking has played an instrumental role in the fraternal bond the two share.
“He’s like a brother, he’s a real brother,” Dabo said. “Not only this season. Since last season, he’s always been cooking. It’s the same as cultures we have in Africa. They like to share, have fun, so we are brothers before soccer.”
Dabo noted that while many of the Hounds have developed top-notch on-field chemistry, the dinners and time spent together when not on the turf have enhanced that.
“It brings the team together,” Dabo said. “Like with me, [Brett], Sammy [Kahsai], always we’re together cooking. He always invites us to eat. It’s something good. We’re always together, even outside of soccer.”
Brett enjoys making a variety of meals. Sometimes he prepares brown rice with curry chicken, other days it’s pasta topped with chicken or shrimp. Dabo has yet to try one of his teammate’s dishes that he hasn’t enjoyed, but he does prefer the barbecue chicken platter that Brett makes on occasion.
“I like the barbecue chicken he makes," Dabo said. "But [Kahsai] likes the curry chicken he makes. I enjoy both, but the barbecue one is amazing the way he does it.”
While Brett’s favorite meal to make is curry chicken, it’s clear that his teammates will have a good time regardless of what he’s prepared for the night. As long as the veteran gets the chance to grow and build relationships with his teammates, he’s happy to serve up any meal that they enjoy.