Showing an eye for recruiting international talent, Northwest College men’s soccer coach Stan Rodrigues has signed two players from Brazil — Matheus Macedo and Rennan Labanca — to roam the pitch for the Trappers next season.
“Other programs are not as flexible with international players as Northwest is,” Rodrigues said. “Other schools may not have the amazing intercultural group that I have here. Every year, I’d like to recruit from different parts of the world because I really want to bring different cultures [to NWC]. Not only does it benefit the school, the student body and the kids themselves, it also benefits me as a coach.”
Macedo — a veteran of such elite clubs as Bangu A.C., Castelo Trivella FC and CFZ do Rio — began playing club soccer at the age of 5, though his love for the game started earlier than that.
“I started playing soccer when I was a baby,” Macedo said. “Soccer in Brazil is competitive; 90 percent of the kids want to be a soccer player.”
Macedo popped up on Rodrigues’ radar last summer, while the young player was in the U.S. as part of the TetraBrazil Soccer Academy, a traveling Brazilian soccer camp.
“Matheus [Macedo] already knew Powell fairly well from his time here with TetraBrazil,” Rodrigues said. “Luckily I was introduced to him by Dave [Gilliatt], our assistant coach. We got to see a little bit of his skill, and finally Dave and I asked him a few questions, and he told us he wanted to come play.”
Macedo said spending time in the area and meeting with the coaches convinced him NWC was a place he would enjoy.
“Coach David Gilliatt told me about NWC, so I went to Powell to practice with the team for two weeks,” Macedo said. “I loved the coaches, teammates and the people in college. I love my host families in Powell. ... I wanna give back everything that Powell gave me. That’s the reason I wanna be a Trapper.”
Calling him a “true leader,” Rodrigues said many in the community are already familiar with Macedo from the soccer camps, and the transition to Powell and the NWC campus should be a smooth one. On the field, Macedo is athletic enough to play a number of positions for Rodrigues, though the second-year coach has a pretty good idea where to use him.
“I think I’ll probably play him at a defensive mid, potentially an attacking mid, depending on what the needs of the team are next year,” he said. “He’s a monster, very tall, very athletic and super technical, which as a team we were looking for as an improvement.”
If there was one critique Rodrigues had about last year’s squad, it was the number of “technical” players.
“We only had like five technical players [last season], and their level of technical play was different, their soccer IQ was different,” he explained. “This year, we’re bringing more skill, more technical play, so I really believe our team will be a lot more dangerous.”
Since arriving at NWC, Rodrigues’ team-as-family approach is something all of his players have bought into, and he believes Macedo will embrace that philosophy.
“That was the first thing we noticed, was his [Macedo’s] character,” Rodrigues said. “The moment he agreed to play for us, his devotion to our team and his ability to train has been massive. I can’t say enough about his character; we’re pretty lucky to have him. He believes in our system, and it won’t take him very long to buy in.”
Labanca is a friend and teammate of Macedo’s from Brazil, and Macedo was instrumental in convincing his friend to join him at NWC. While the coach hasn’t met Labanca yet, they’ve spoken several times.
“He is just as committed as Mat [Macedo] is, and the nice thing is now that they know I’m bringing in guys from other areas of Brazil, they’ve reached out to everyone that’s coming,” Rodrigues said. “They’re all training together and getting to know each other prior to arrival [at NWC].”
Rodrigues has Labanca penciled in at center back, just one of the players brought in to fill the void left by outgoing captain Ryan Tyrer and current Trapper Kyle Lamb, who is moving to a forward position for the 2018 season.
“Not only is he [Labanca] highly athletic and tough as nails, he plays at a highly technical level and can do more off the ball,” Rodrigues said. “That’s what we’re hoping to get from Rennan next year.”
The coach said both Macedo and Labanca are very active in their communities in Brazil, another reason he thinks the pair will be the right fit for the Trappers.
“They’re very much involved back home in what I already do here,” Rodrigues said, referencing the Trappers’ community outreach. “Our atmosphere here [at NWC] is we’re very family-oriented. We want to keep bonds that are stronger than ‘you came, you played, you left.’ These guys come from a culture that’s devoted to family. It’s going to be a much easier transition in that respect.”