FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – By A.J. Soares’ estimation, fellow Revolution center back Jose Goncalves is a “freak athlete.”
Goncalves, who’s listed at 6-2, 180lbs. on the roster sheet, certainly doesn’t play like a typical big man. He’s fast. He’s quick on the ball. And, perhaps most notably, he would rather attack the play than watch it unfold.
But there’s something else about Goncalves that’s caught the attention of Soares. Something more obvious.
“Just look at him,” Soares said with a laugh. “Look at those calves. Are you kidding me?”
Goncalves may be a physical specimen, no doubt a byproduct of his athleticism, freakish or otherwise. Yet, the former FC Sion (Swiss Super League) center back also offers something that might prove more valuable to a team like the Revolution.
After a season in which the club suffered from a severe shortage of leadership, head coach Jay Heaps wanted to find players who weren’t afraid to steer the team in the right direction in 2013. So he and general manager Mike Burns set out to find skilled veterans who weren’t afraid to raise their voices.
Goncalves was among those who fit the bill. At 27, the Lisbon, Portgual native of Cape Verdean ancestry has already accumulated nearly a decade’s worth of European experience. More than that, he’s fully aware of the leadership role assigned to him. It’s a role he’s already embraced only two weeks into camp.
“Definitely,” Goncalves said. ”It’s very important. I think when you have older players on the team, it’s always better to (help the team) improve. We have a lot young players, but I think they have a good attitude and for myself it’s much easier to coach them and to tell them if there’s ever any problems.”
While Goncalves has already taken to his leadership role in training, he’s also optimistic that he can also bring it on game day every week.
In the last two years, Goncalves has only played 21 games. In fact, the lack of gameday minutes at Sion led Goncalves to the Revolution, who acquired him on loan last month.
“As a football player you always want to play,” Goncalves said. ”Last year (was) not so great and I didn’t play a lot, but I’m looking forward to playing more this year.”
Of course, he knows that whatever playing time he gets will have to be earned. Although he’s one of the most experienced players on the roster, he isn’t taking anything for granted.
At the moment, the Revolution currently have five center backs in camp, including first overall pick Andrew Farrell. So Goncalves knows that the competition is going to be fierce – and ongoing between now and First Kick.
“We have a lot of good players, and now we must show in training everyday that we want to play,” Gonalves said. ”Thereafter, it’s the choice of the manager.”
Goncalves isn’t the only one who hopes he’ll see the pitch early and often this summer. Continuing his career in a region that boasts a dense Portuguese and Cape Verdean population, there’s sure to be plenty of area fans who’ll be rooting on the defender.
“I’m really happy about that and looking forward to (playing in front of them),” Goncalves said. “And maybe I could meet some of them. It’s great (because) I was not thinking before that in Boston, not once, ‘Where is the most Portuguese and Cape Verdean people?’ But I’m proud about this and I hope I can meet some of them.”