Humans of Reno: A Pro Soccer Player from Brazil

“It was never my dream to come to the U.S.,” said Matheus Silva, who moved to the United States at 15 after growing up in futebol hotbed São Paulo, Brazil. Reporting by Kiley Diesner

“Reno is different for me, we definitely don’t have casinos in Brazil,” said Silva, a member of the new Reno 1868 FC soccer team. Photo by Kiley Diesner

A Soccer Journey to the U.S

Matheus Silva, now 20, began playing soccer at age five in his hometown of São Paulo, a bustling city, where famous soccer players such as Caio Ribeiro, Rivelino, Zé Roberto, Djalma Santos and Viola have hailed from. When he was 15, Silva caught the eye of the head coach for the Montverde Academy’s boys soccer team in Florida who happened to be on a trip to Brazil.

“His wife is Brazilian so he spoke a little bit of Portuguese,” Silva said, remembering the day he met the man who would go on to be his coach for the next two years. “He talked to my mom and offered me a full scholarship and said I would be able to play soccer and go to school. My mom loved it and said ‘Why not?’”

Silva and his mother at his 18th birthday. Photo contributed by Matheus Silva

Silva considers himself a mama’s boy, so of course he would do anything to make her happy, plus he loved soccer and went after any opportunity to better himself as a player.

First, Florida

Silva moved to Orlando, Florida, and attended Montverde Academy on a full soccer scholarship. Montverde is a college-preparatory school with an athletics program which competes at a national level. The school’s soccer team is known as SIMA, The Soccer Institute at Montverde Academy and just as it sounds, it is a high-intensity soccer program that is well-known in the soccer world across the country.

The article above is from TopDrawerSoccer.com and highlights Silva’s high school career and journey to becoming a pro.

Adjusting to the American Lifestyle

Silva spent the next few years adjusting to his new way of life in the U.S. He said of course he struggled at first.

“The people (in Florida), I wouldn’t say are more friendly but they are more warm,” Silva said.

At first he didn’t feel that warmness he talks about now because he didn’t speak any English. In his first few months, he struggled a lot with the language barrier.

“After a year I got used to it, learned the language, made friends, and everything got better,” he said.

Silva made one friend in particular that he would cross paths with again coincidentally. Jordan Caroline, the current junior forward for the University of Nevada, Reno men’s basketball team, was one of the first people to interact with Silva in Florida.

“I was a junior and he was a senior,” Silva says of Caroline. “He lived in the same dorm as me in the room right in front of me. He was a cool dude, he played basketball. We would always play FIFA in his room and hang around. Even though I didn’t speak much English he would just chill with me.”

From Florida, to Spain, to New York, to San Jose, to Phoenix, to Reno

During Spring Break of his senior year of high school Silva went to Spain for a tryout with Villarreal FC in Villarreal. He said he played well at the tryout but that that he ran into problems with his passport and visa so it didn’t work out. Next, Silva went to a tryout in New York City for the New York City FC where he was offered a contract with their USL team, but Silva wanted a contract with the first team in the MLS, not with a USL team. The USL is a Division II U.S. Professional League , placing it under Major League Soccer (Division I) and equal to the North American Soccer League (also Division II) in the hierarchy. Reno 1868 FC is part of the USL.

“So I went back to my high school, kept training, and about two months later San Jose (Earthquakes) asked me to come for a tryout,” Silva said. “Then I went to tryout with them and they offered me a contract and they wanted me to play for the first team so I signed with them to play when I finished school.”

After signing with the MLS Earthquakes at 18, Silva became the youngest player from his high school to sign with a professional team.

Silva’s locker for the San Jose Earthquakes. Photo by Matheus Silva

A Player on Loan

Silva has been with the Earthquakes for two years now. In 2016 he appeared in four games and played 139 minutes. In May of 2016 he was loaned to Arizona SC (now Phoenix Rising FC in the USL) and then in March of 2017 he was loaned out to Reno 1868 FC and has been in Reno ever since. Loaning out young players still needing development and more playing time with lower-level teams is a common practice among top soccer teams.

Silva’s stats with the San Jose Earthquakes. He is hoping to play for the 1st team again in the near future. Screengrab from MLSsoccer.com

Reactions to Reno

Silva has certainly noticed the differences between Reno and his hometown of São Paulo. He says the biggest difference between Reno and home is definitely the size and not to mention, the casinos.

“First of all, São Paulo is a big city. Like a really, really big city with a lot of traffic and people,” Silva said. “We definitely don’t have casinos.”

Silva poses in front of Greater Nevada Field where Reno 1868 FC plays their games. Photo by Kiley Diesner

Going into his third month in Reno, Silva is looking to get as many game time minutes as he can in the future and see all that Reno has to offer. Though the team went up to Lake Tahoe once for a scrimmage, Silva didn’t get to see much of the area and wants to go again soon. His aunt from Brazil visited him at the end of April and he loved showing her around and taking her to some of the places he has discovered so far. His favorite restaurant in town is El Adobe Cafe and he has even made friends with some of the servers there.

Role Models and Family Tattoos

Silva says that his soccer idol is Zinedine Zidane, the current head coach for Real Madrid.

“He was a French international, he played for Real Madrid, Juventus, he’s a true professional who was dedicated to his career,” Silva said.

Silva is a family guy. He misses his family in Brazil a lot, but luckily he has something to remind him of them every day. The tattoo on his arm is a sleeve that has a symbol for every member in his family.

Silva shows his tattoo on his forearm. Photo by Kiley Diesner

The lion on his tattoo represents his father, the clock represents the time that he left home, and the rose represents his aunt. On the other side of his arm he has his mom’s name along with a Bible verse she used to always say to him, a diamond with his brother’s name and an angel that represents all the people he has met since he has been in the U.S.

Photos and Reporting by Kiley Diesner shared with Reynolds Sandbox

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