Photo by Palm Beach Atlantic University
Lucas Coutinho has flown under the radar for some time now, but his strong technical skill and ability to create and distribute have thrust the Brazilian midfielder into the spotlight in the PDL.
Coutinho and his family are from Recife, Brazil, but the opportunity to continue his education while playing the game he loves at a high level has led him to the United States.
"My family didn't want me to stop studying, and I didn't want it either, to be honest," Coutinho said. "The only way we thought about doing both at a high level would be going to the United States. … We liked the idea, and some schools were interested, so here I am two-and-a-half years later.”
With aspirations of higher education and professional soccer in mind, he moved to South Carolina and attended Clover High School for one year. In that year, he played club soccer and was voted to the South Carolina All-State AAAA Team for his performances with Clover. The Brazilian midfielder was heavily recruited to play for Division I schools, such as the University of South Carolina and Clemson University. However, Coutinho said he was ruled a Division I Non-qualifier, which made him ineligible to play for a DI school for one year, because he had taken six extra months of high school classes. Coutinho had stayed in school to learn English.
Coutinho did not want to stop his development as a player, so he decided to play in DII, which did not have the same eligibility requirements. Since joining Palm Beach Atlantic University in 2013, he’s excelled, earning honor after honor for the Sailfish. In 2015, Coutinho scored eight goals and provided 14 assists in 16 appearances. He went on to be named a 2015 First Team National Soccer Coaches Association of America All-American. This year with South Florida Surf in the PDL, Coutinho is ranked 14th on the first edition of the 2016 Top Prospects list.
“I still have a lot of PDL to play, which is very important to me, but I’m going into my last season of college with the aspiration of hopefully getting drafted next year,” Coutinho said. “I know it’s a hard task for an international student who plays Division II soccer, but some people have done it, and I think I can. … I’d love to stay around [in the United States]. I don’t want to go back to Brazil right now.
“I like it here, I like the lifestyle and I see a future for me here. Hopefully, it will be with soccer, and after soccer, I could jump into a business, maybe start a business.”
A Business Management major at Palm Beach Atlantic, Coutinho’s biggest love and passion continues to be the game he plays. Soccer has been at the forefront of Coutinho’s life since he was a baby.
“My first thought was a soccer ball that my dad threw at me when I was like three months old, or something like that,” Coutinho said. “I always had a ball with me, and I started playing futsal at a competitive level on an organized team when I was four. I mainly played futsal only, never really got to the outdoor soccer until 15 or 16 years old. So from four to 15, only futsal, which helped me a lot with my technical ability and skill.
“When you watch me play, that’s my main characteristic that makes me stand out. I’m very thankful to the game of futsal because I wouldn’t be what I am today if it wasn’t for it. At the age of 15, I started to play outdoor soccer, but I never stopped playing futsal. From 15-17, I was playing both, so I would go to soccer practice after school. Then after soccer, I would go straight to futsal practice.”
For two years in Brazil, Coutinho would go to school from 7:30 a.m.-1 p.m., go to soccer practice from 3-5 p.m. and attend futsal training from 6:30-8:30 p.m. A few years have passed by since then, but Coutinho still has a schedule that keeps him busy from sunrise to sunset.
“I normally wake up at 7:30 a.m., and I’ll get a quick shower in and eat some breakfast before I go to training,” Coutinho said. “I leave from my apartment to go to training with the team around 8:10 a.m., and we get to the facilities where we train around 8:35 a.m.”
From there, Coutinho trains for approximately two hours before returning to his apartment to grab a quick bite to eat. His day is only beginning though, as he must report to work by 1 p.m. He does office work with the ownership group until 5 p.m., then heads home to relax.
On the field, Coutinho has been a key figure for the Surf to start the 2016 regular season. He has been active in the final third, and typically plays a role in the buildup to many of the Surf’s chances. While he is now receiving some recognition and more eyes are watching his play on the field, Coutinho remains focused on looking to improve in order to see his aspiration come to fruition.
“What makes me stand out is the dribbling, the short, quick moves,” Coutinho said, “and I’m a good passer as well. I get a lot of assists, and I take joy and pride for assisting just as much as scoring a goal. … I play with my head more than with my body.”