- James Coller/Daily
By Minh Doan, Daily Sports Writer
Published January 16, 2014
Seven years ago, Fabio Pereira moved more than 4,500 miles from his home country of Brazil to the United States in the hope of one day achieving his dream of becoming a professional soccer player.
That dream is finally within striking distance.
“In Brazil, I thought I was getting closer to going professional, but I had to dream bigger,” Pereira said. “That’s why I made the move to the United States.”
Pereira’s dream has been put on hold, at least for the next couple of days, as he was passed over in the first two rounds of the Major League Soccer SuperDraft in Philadelphia on Thursday afternoon. He hopes to be selected next Tuesday in either the third or fourth round of the draft.
In Soccer By Ives’s latest Big Board, the senior midfielder is ranked as the 45th-best player in the draft and projected to be selected early in the third round. But Pereira avoids the opinions.
“I think (mock drafts) are for fans, and if you pay attention to that, you’re never going to move forward,” he said. “I’ve read some stuff, but I’m going to believe in what happens at the draft.”
To improve his stock, Pereira attended the MLS Combine in Fort Lauderdale, Fla, which showcases the best college soccer players in the country. The players are not only put through soccer-related challenges, but physical and mental tasks in front of their potential new employers in MLS coaches, scouts and general managers.
Pereira, a late addition to the combine roster, had four days to make an impression that could potentially lead to an opportunity of a lifetime.
Those four days came after almost three weeks of preparation beforehand, though the treacherous weather made training difficult.
“Since it was so cold here in Michigan, we were limited to running the treadmill and working out inside,” Pereira said. “But I was lucky enough to work with some local coaches and get some more touches on the ball.”
At the combine, 69 college soccer players and four athletes from the Caribbean Football Union were split into four squads: Brazuca, NitroCharge, adiZero and Predator. Pereira was placed on Team Brazuca with former Michigan State defender Kevin Cope and Wisconsin forward Tomislav Zadro.
The teams played each other once in a round-robin tournament with every team participating in one game a day.
Pereira was given the start in the first match for Team Brazuca and impressed scouts with his hustle and aggressiveness off the ball. His highlight of the match came on a free kick in the middle of the field from 25 yards out. Pereira hit the ball with just enough curve to get it up and around the wall and freeze the goalkeeper as the ball curled into the back of the net.
But Pereira didn’t believe he played particularly well.
“In the first game, everyone’s trying to impress right away,” he said. “It was really exhausting, and I don’t think I played my best game.”
Pereira closed out the combine with two more games, which he thought went progressively better.
“I thought I had a good second day, and I probably had my best game in the third match,” he said.
One key aspect of Pereira’s game praised by many scouts at the SuperDraft was his work ethic, which he attributes to the coaching staff in Ann Arbor. Pereira believes Michigan coach Chaka Daley and his staff did a good job of preparing him for professional soccer.
“Here at Michigan, I never thought I was just playing college ball,” Pereira said. “The coaches were very professional with the way they ran practices and games and tried to cultivate a competitive environment.”
Pereira leaves Michigan after a successful four-year career. He stands second in Wolverine history with 22 assists and leads in shots with 194. During his time at Michigan, Pereira also garnered many honors, including the 2011 Big Ten Freshman of the Year award.
In his eyes, the accomplishments at Michigan showed that coming all the way to the United States, was the right decision in achieving his dream.
But as Pereira’s career as a Wolverine ends, his career as a professional soccer player could just be beginning.
“(Becoming pro) is just becoming a reality for me now,” he said. “You never really know until you get the opportunity.”