After a training session earlier this week, I enjoyed an opportunity to talk a little bit more in-depth with Riverhounds midfielder Victor Souto, who is thriving in his first season as a professional soccer player, scoring two goals in 20 appearances, with 18 starts, as one the Hounds central, defensive midfielders.
A native of Sao Paulo, Brazil, a country where soccer is life to so many, Souto came to the United States in 2013, when he received a full-scholarship to the University of Akron, and realized his life-long dream to become a pro soccer player in January when he was signed with the Riverhounds.
Souto finished his collegiate career with nine goals, three assists, 74 shots and 23 shots on goal in 66 games, all of which he started. During his playing career at Akron, Souto was named First Team All-MAC in 2013, Second Team All-Mac in 2014, First Team All-Ohio in 2014 and MAC All-Tournament Team in 2015.
Souto also graduated from Akron in the four years he spent in Northeast Ohio, earning a Bachelor of Business Administration and Professional Selling degree, a Summa Cum Laude student of Akron’s School of Business. In Pittsburgh, Souto has volunteered, along with a few other teammates, visiting patients at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s Rehabilitation Unit.
Prior to arriving in the United States, Souto spent 10 years in the Corinthians prestigious youth academy in Brazil, playing for Sport Club Corinthians Paulista. He captained the Corinthians Youth National Championship team in 2009.
Souto has acclimated himself quickly to the pro game, and has been a fixture in the Hounds line-up roaming the central midfield. On the field, Souto brings combination of terrific technical skill on the ball — very adept at navigating the ball out of danger when under pressure in the defending third. Souto also plays with fierceness where he doesn’t give in any ground and will go hard for every 50/50 ball that comes his way, and at times will take a foul every now and then. In Saturday’s game against Bethlehem Steel FC, competing against a pair of wily veterans James Chambers, who had played many years in Ireland and Maurice Edu, a former U.S. Men’s National team player and Philadelphia Union captain. Souto and his fellow central midfielder Stephen Okai outplayed their veteran counterparts throughout the night to help the Hounds earn a 3-2 win.
What’s it been like to play your first full season as a professional with the Riverhounds:
I am very blessed to have this opportunity. It’s been a dream of mine since I was little. Because when you’re from Brazil, and you’re a boy, you play as early as you can. For me, play pro soccer in United States, my family’s very proud of me. I know every day I come out here, I want to work harder, because being a foreign player, it is not easy, and a lot of people want my spot. Every day I wake up, I know I am going to a lot harder every day because this place means a lot to me.
I am very grateful for the Riverhounds to give me this opportunity.
With an opportunity to play in College, was that your first time playing in the United States:
I came in 2011, when I played for my club in Brazil, in the Dallas Cup, and I stayed here for two weeks. In 2013, I got a full ride to Akron, and I spent four years there and graduated. Learned a lot about American life, and American soccer. I learned so much there.
What have you liked about your experience in Pittsburgh, and how different is it compared to being back home in Brazil.
I am from Sao Paulo. And Sao Paulo has more people than New York City. Traffic is crazy. People come from all over the world, and it’s a very busy, business city in Brazil.
Pittsburgh is calm, but not that calm. There’s a lot here and things to do. I have visited a lot of places with my teammates and with my girlfriend has really showed me around a lot — and I like it a lot.
There was one time, we were on the Gateway Clipper boat ride, and the captain pointed out Highmark Stadium, and said that’s where an amateur soccer team, the Riverhounds, play.
I was so mad, I really wanted to say something, because I am very proud to be a professional and of our team.
You’ve been a constant player in the line-up most of the season, as a holding midfielder. Do you like playing in that role, and when the opportunities arise for you to get into the attack, do you enjoy that too?
“My primary job is to defend. I don’t like to be scored on. When I think I have my job done defensively. I’ll try to get forward. Especially when we need a goal. I have lot of confidence in going forward. I like it because when I score goals and when I have assists, people will remember who you are.”
Oh, yeah, many people may remember that your first goal (vs Toronto FC II on May 2) was a memorable goal.
In case you haven’t seen it, here is the goal. After scoring the goal, Souto immediately dropped to his knees, recalling later that he felt a connection to his homeland and family.
“I just looked off of Marsh (teammate Marshall Hollingsworth), and ran off of the guy that was marking me, and he put a perfect ball right at my feet, and I was lucky to get it in the back of the net.”
“The most important thing, is that we got the win. And back-to-back wins,” Souto said at the time. “For me, my main job is to pass the ball, and help get the attack started. But at that moment, I felt something different. I could get one if had a chance and I did.”
“For me, my whole family is back in Brazil, and every performance is for them. When I scored, I fell on my knees, and felt very blessed.”
With seven games left in seven weeks, what’s the approach that you and your teammates will take for the rest of this season:
We need to make the playoffs. We are going to do everything it takes to not just get the eight position, because right now, we’re 13 points away from the top spot. It’s realistic, but maybe it hard to achieve, but it’s always our goal to get as far to the top. That our goal. And when we make the playoffs, then anything can happen.