By Terry Jacoby, FUEL Soccer Contributor
Brandon Merklin anchored a UMass defense that held opponents under a goal per contest this past season was named to the United Soccer Coaches All-Midwest Region Third-Team as a junior. The Minutemen went 15-4-3 and was the first UMass team since 1991 to win the Atlantic 10 regular season outright and the tournament title. They won the A-10 Tournament title with a 3-1 win over VCU in the finals at Dayton, Ohio.
Merklin earned A-10 All-Tournament Team honors and scored a goal in the season opener against Saint Francis before adding assists in league games against La Salle and Fordham. Merklin will be a senior this year and has already been named one of the team’s captains for the 2018 season.
Merklin, a native of Massapequa, N.Y., spent his club days close to home, playing with the Massapequa Celtics.
“We were pretty good,” he said. “We played in tournaments in Arizona, Florida and Virginia. We made it to the semifinals of State Cup a few times but never won a State Cup. But club soccer definitely helped for college soccer because of the speed of play and the physicality.”
Eating healthy for college students, even Division 1 soccer players, can be challenging. Merklin, who admits he’s not really an expert when it comes to nutrition, says for him it comes down to understanding your own body and what it can and can’t handle.
“To be honest, I just eat what I want,” he said. “I do try and eat a lot of vegetables. But people’s bodies are different so what works for me doesn’t always work for the next guy. I guess I’m lucky in that I don’t have to watch what I eat as much as other guys. We have some players on our team who really have to watch what they eat in order to stay fit and be in top condition.”
Merklin says while he doesn’t necessarily count calories, he certainly doesn’t go crazy with a diet of unhealthy foods. It all comes down to moderation and balance.
“In college soccer you travel everywhere and all the time,” he says. “It’s important to eat right, especially on the road.”
3 Nutrition Tips
- Control the portions. Eating smart and healthy on game day is an important part of preparing yourself to play. “I like to eat chicken and pasta for the carbs which provides fuel for the game,” Merklin says. “I will eat a medium-size meal about three to four hours before game time. I try not to eat too much. Just enough to help give me energy on the field.”
- Drink water. Merklin’s go-to beverage is a bottled water. He doesn’t often mess around with anything else when it comes to drinks. “It’s important to hydrate especially before training or games,” he said. “I will have a Powerade too but that’s about it.” Athletes who exercise and sweat for more than 60 minutes can benefit from the sports drinks’ carbohydrates, electrolytes and vitamins, which help aid in hydration and energy.
- Train hard. One of the reasons Merklin can go easy on the diet is because he goes hard in training. He easily burns off any calories he takes in both during the season in the off-season. “I like to run, lift weights and play a lot during the off-season,” he says. “We have a three-mile fitness test (in 18 minutes) here so I run a lot in the off-season. I run about two miles every day with a rest day every once in a while.”