Photo courtesy of SMU Athletics
Recent Real Salt Lake draft pick Diogo de Almeida has a few things to say to those who might have doubted his selection in last week’s SuperDraft.
The Brazilian left back was selected with the 24th pick overall by RSL out of SMU, where he earned his fair share of accolades.
“I think that it’s a little bit of a lack of them understanding the game of soccer,” de Almeida told MLSsoccer via phone. “I was named Defensive Player of the Year [in Conference USA]. I don’t think that’s one of my weaknesses. I think I’m very good at one-on-one defending. So I think that’s one of my strengths.”
De Almeida was recruited to SMU by current FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman and originally brought in as a forward, where he had some initial success.
“My freshman year I started as a forward,” said de Almeida, who who once played alongside former LA Galaxy midfielder Juninho and FCD’s Jackson in São Paulo’s youth system. “I was the second-leading scorer on the team. I scored five goals, and had two assists. It was a great freshman year. I made a pretty good statement. I showed even though I was a rookie in college that I could play at that level.”
Due to team needs, he was moved into the midfield the following season before finally settling into the left back spot at the start of his junior year.
“Again, I was a player that was always fit, and very technical on the ball, and so I could play there, too,” he said. “So I made the move to the back line and we had an amazing year, an awesome year. And the defense did well. I had a great year.”
The journey to SMU came after some sacrifice and courage on the part of de Almeida. He left his home and family behind when he was 17 to come to the US, where he lived with a host family.
“It was the opportunity to play soccer and also go to school,” he explained. “Unfortunately in Brazil, it’s kind of hard – we don’t have the opportunity – education in Brazil is not very good. So here was a better option. I could play soccer, the sport that I love, and also get an education.”
Now he turns his attention to showing his worth to Real Salt Lake, beginning with the opening of preseason on Jan. 25.
“I’m a left back that can defend and also provide the attacking skills,” he said. “I’ll always go up and down the flank and help out the team in both ends. So I think that’s my greatest quality. I have speed and athleticism.”