Northwest College men’s soccer coach Stan Rodrigues continues to mine talent from south of the equator, signing two more Brazilian players to take the pitch for the Trappers in the fall.
Striker Gabriel Alves and goalkeeper Arthur Lopes recently signed letters of intent to bring their talents to NWC. Rodrigues said both players have the talent and attitude to contribute right away.
“Alves and Lopes are both extremely talented,” the coach said. “But beyond that, they are very team and family-oriented, which is why they should have no trouble fitting in with this program.”
Calling him a “complete striker,” Rodrigues said Alves plays with tenacity not always found in Brazilian players. The second-year coach praised Alves’ ball skills, saying he’s “lethal around the box” and not afraid to mix it up.
“There’s a knock on Brazilian players that they’re not durable, not aggressive,” Rodrigues explained. “I saw him [Alves] play a couple of times, and he was a true threat on the ball. For me to see that type of creativity on the ball, coupled with the skill level that he has and the desire to score, I think he’ll contribute huge on the front line.”
Though he started playing soccer at an early age, Alves left the game in his early teens to focus on a completely different sport.
“I have always been passionate about football and I spent most of my childhood playing ball, played in some good clubs in Brazil,” he said. “But I was also swimming, and I ended up choosing swim for my life from the age of 13, leaving the football [soccer] aside.”
When his swimming career didn’t pan out, Alves returned to soccer in 2016, playing for a variety of club teams in his home country. Presented with an opportunity to play in the states, Alves jumped at the chance.
“I heard from Northwest College through the company that I train with daily,” he explained. “I chose this college because of location; I had never heard of the state of Wyoming when I went to research. I was very surprised and happy with the certainty that it would be a great experience in my life to be going to a little-known place here in Brazil.”
Rodrigues has proven adept at recruiting what he calls “character players,” those who exhibit a willingness to embrace their team and their community. He says Alves fits that bill.
“The Brazilian culture is going to fit just fine with my team, and [Alves] represents that,” Rodrigues said. “They’re very family-oriented and very proud of what they’re going to represent. They’re excited for the opportunity to come to the states and play soccer here.”
And for Alves, that opportunity can’t start soon enough.
“I am very anxious for this new experience,” he said. “I hope to add a lot to the Trappers family, developing myself as a person, player and student, having all the structure that I consider ideal.”
Lopes may have the tougher challenge of the two recruits, as he faces the daunting task of replacing Luke Holt, an All-Region IX selection last season in net for the Trappers. Holt recently committed to play at the University of Hawaii-Hilo next season, leaving a large hole to fill.
“This is a tough one, because losing a goalkeeper like Luke [Holt] made it apparent I’d have to find somebody with similar skills or a different skill set but yet can stop shots in the box and really be clutch for us,” Rodrigues said. “When I saw Arthur [Lopes] play, he wasn’t a prototypical Brazilian goalie — he was more than that. He attacks the game. He’s a big body, very athletic, very humble. But boy does he control the box very well and he has wonderful feet.”
Like Holt, Lopes controls the back line well, according to Rodrigues. Holt was also a demonstrative presence on the field, constantly talking to his teammates and acting as a vocal leader; Rodrigues said time will tell if Lopes is as vocal, as a language barrier may prove difficult to overcome at first.”
“It should be interesting, because I think he’s [Lopes] mostly Portuguese-speaking,” Rodrigues said, laughing. “Speaking Portuguese will definitely add another element to our culture that we’ll have to learn.”
That said, Lopes’ athleticism should more than make up for any disparity in language.
“Arthur will definitely fill a role for us,” Rodrigues said. “He’s very fit. He’s got the full game: He can run out, he can tackle, he can win balls in the air. He’s commanding. He probably has a little less fluidity in his language than Luke [Holt] did, but he’ll be fine.”
Like his teammate, Lopes is excited to begin his career as a Trapper — both on the field and in the classroom.
“I’ve heard that NWC has an excellent campus structure in general, and I’ve been told very well by [Coach] Rodrigues,” he said. “These things together made me choose NWC as my new home. I’m super looking forward for training to start, getting to know my soccer mates, and the teachers.”