In mid-October, Huntington Beach senior Brandon Bui was devastated to find out that he had torn the PCL in his left knee.
He had suffered the injury in a collision with the goalkeeper and a center back while playing for his club soccer team, the Slammers FC 2001.
When the injury was diagnosed, Bui was told that he would miss three months, stretching all the way into the Wave League portion of the high school season.
Sitting on the sidelines was not going to settle well for Bui. He had an insatiable desire to get back on the field, and his teammates began to take note of his presence at practice in spite of the injury.
“[Knee] brace, no brace, he was going to battle back, and he was going to go ahead and become a leader on this team,” Huntington Beach boys’ soccer coach Sean Dick said. “It took us a few weeks to select him as a captain right after that injury, but you could tell by his attitude and by his work ethic that the kids were starting to watch him. They saw him playing with that brace, and they were like, ‘He’s there.’”
Bui did not require surgery, and he made it back to the pitch in about half the estimated recovery time. He worked with a physical therapist to strengthen the muscles around the torn ligament.
The hard part about coaching Bui was not getting him to do the work. Rather, it was protecting him from himself.
“He would do everything that he was instructed to do by his [physical therapist] out with us,” Dick said. “We kept reminding him, ‘You can’t do more.’
“That is your typical teenage boy. He wants to do as much as he can and a little bit more.”
Bui came back for Huntington Beach’s own All Turf Tournament. The Oilers picked up their first three victories of the season in winning the tournament. Huntington Beach defeated Santa Ana 2-1 in the semifinals before beating La Habra 4-1 in the championship game.
Huntington Beach went into a downward spiral after that, losing nine of its next 10 matches. Seven of those came by one goal.
The Oilers got hot again just in time. They rode a five-match winning streak to the Wave League title.
Bui put his best foot forward last week, scoring the golden-goal winner in double overtime against Marina and also scoring in a 2-1 win at Laguna Beach.
Huntington Beach offered some more late-game magic in the Wave League title match. Phillip Pham scored the game-tying goal in the 76th minute, and Brandon Francis put home the game-winner in the 80th minute to beat visiting Fountain Valley 2-1.
The previous season, Huntington Beach had an opportunity to play its way into the CIF postseason, but it lost a battle for third place in the Sunset League finale at Los Alamitos. Bui said he learned from that moment, and he delivered an impassioned speech about having no regrets before the league title game against the Barons.
“I told the team in the beginning, ‘This is our last 80-minute game of league, and this is a do-or-die game where everyone needs to work for each other because you never know what the results or outcome may be.’
“Even though we were already going to CIF, we wanted to be remembered in the gym, post a banner as [Wave] League champion.”
Huntington Beach went 9-13-3 overall and 5-1 in league. The Oilers won their third league title as a program and first since 2015. Bui has seven goals and five assists in 16 games this season.
In the classroom, Bui is a model student, carrying a 4.6 GPA. He is currently enrolled in AP Literature, AP Spanish 4, Model United Nations, AP Stats and ASB.
Bui said he was getting looked at by a lot of colleges before the injury. He named UC Davis and UC San Diego as two of his schools of interest.
Asked what quality would serve Bui best as he continues to pursue the dream of playing college soccer, Dick said it would be his determination.
“The kid is going to rise beyond what his abilities are just because inside him, he needs to do that,” Dick said. “As much as we need air to breathe, he needs to succeed. You can see that in him. He does not want to fail.
“He’ll come over and say, ‘Give me a quick tip.’ I’ll give him a quick tip, and he’ll go out and apply that tip.
“That’s how brilliant he is becoming. You put him in a college environment where the game is faster, your mind has to be faster, he is going to improve to give that coach and his teammates whatever is necessary in order for him to become a starter in that program.”
Born: Feb. 14, 2001
Hometown: Huntington Beach
Height: 5 feet 11
Weight: 170 pounds
Coach: Sean Dick
Favorite food: Fried rice
Favorite movie: “Rush Hour”
Favorite athletic moment: Huntington Beach won its host event, the All Turf Tournament. The Oilers defeated Santa Ana in the semifinals and La Habra in the final.