It’s Bryam Rebellon. With an M.
As in mobility. Or mileage.
The Jacksonville Armada’s new right fullback is adapting fast to an unfamiliar role, and it’s making a difference entering Wednesday’s North American Soccer League matchup with the Indy Eleven at Hodges Stadium.
The 25-year-old from Colombia has already shown his next opponent just how much trouble he can cause.
Jack Blake naturally won the headlines when the teams met last month, scoring a hat trick in a 3-2 win, but he wasn’t alone. Some of the Armada’s best scoring changes came from Rebellon racing up the right wing.
“Bryam’s a runner,” Armada left defender Kalen Ryden said. “He can get up and down all day. He’s super-fit, so that fits his role, and the more defensive [responsibility] fits my role.”
Those roles go back to an August decision from head coach Mark Lowry, who said he felt the team wasn’t getting enough penetration along the right flank.
That’s when he made the call to try Rebellon, who has spent most of his professional career in midfield, as a right-sided defender, where he can use his speed, stamina and crossing accuracy.
So far, it’s worked.
Learning the tactical nuances of the physically taxing position has taken time for Rebellon, but he says he’s catching on.
“As a midfielder, the movement that I had was completely different,” he said. “But now, I’m just trying to learn the way I have to defend, and I think I’m doing pretty good so far.”
But there’s a balancing act.
“There’s always a give-and-take,” Lowry said. “When you send one player forward, it does leave a little space at the back sometimes. So you have to try and balance it, and I think Bryam is learning that.”
It hasn’t always worked perfectly. When the timing goes wrong, opponents have been able to break in behind Rebellon, as in the New York Cosmos’ first goal in their 3-3 comeback draw two weeks ago.
That’s when Ryden, who plays on the opposite side, has a crucial job.
The more conservative Ryden is willing to stay at home when his colleague blasts upfield. Along with Mechack Jerome, who has committed only eight fouls in 2,180 minutes, he provides cover for Rebellon’s ventures.
“It’s a bit unorthodox, because we defend with four at the back, but then we attack with three on the back line,” Ryden said. “The balance just comes with our soccer smarts.”
Wednesday’s contest is a makeup of a Sept. 9 game washed out by Hurricane Irma.
With just two days to rest after Sunday’s loss to Miami, the Armada had a lighter schedule Tuesday, even taking some time for a highly unofficial post-training cricket match.
A few players with a cricket background were pretty handy with the flat bats, like Trinidadian Kevan George and goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell.
The Armada stands fifth in the NASL combined standings, but can climb into the all-important fourth place with a win or draw.
“We have to make the game go [the way we want] with the rhythm,” Rebellon said. “Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have an opportunity to go forward and create some chances for the guys up front.”