Photo: Courtesy of Coastal Carolina University Athletics
PSP spoke with the No. 15 pick in the 2014 SuperDraft, Coastal Carolina’s Pedro Ribeiro. After a four year college career that saw him named a semi-finalist for the MAC Hermann trophy, Big South Attacking Player of the Year, Big South tournament MVP, and a second team All-American, Ribeiro was tabbed as one of the players John Hackworth most wanted at the SuperDraft.
Ribeiro is a 6’4 left-footed midfielder/forward who can play centrally or on the wing. He spent a season with Union assistant coach Brendan Burke at Reading United, where he played as a wide forward. Ribeiro is strong, technically gifted, confident, and well-spoken. PSP asked him about his strengths and weaknesses, the pressure of joining a MLS club, and whether he already has a goal celebration picked out.
What were your first reactions to being picked? What did you do and what did you feel?
I was watching the draft with some of my teammates and the assistant coach and the goalkeeper’s coach and we put it on a big screen in the locker room and watched it together. I was pretty surprised. I was expecting to get drafted but not that high, and I was pretty excited about it. At first, I couldn’t believe it. I put my hands over my eyes to make sure it was true. It was a pretty good feeling, a pretty amazing feeling that, obviously, I’d never felt before.
You had no idea the Union were going after you?
I knew some of the teams were, and the Union was one of them because I had a chance to play for Reading before. And I had a chance to train with the team for a couple of days. So Coach John and Coach Brendan knew me, they’ve been watching me play throughout my college career and during the summers. So I knew they were looking forward to try and get me, but it wasn’t sure that it was going to happen.
When you played with the Union, did you get to know any of the guys that are still on the team now?
I know Leo pretty well because we played PDL that year together — Leo Fernandes. I remember the time I was there Ray Gaddis was there, Sheanon Williams, Okugo, Cristhian, Jimmy, Zac MacMath, those were some of the guys that were there when I trained there. There were a couple more but I can’t remember by name right now.
And you’re heading down Friday to meet up with a lot of those guys again?
Yes, Friday. That’s when I’m heading over there.
What do you think your strengths and weaknesses were that led to there being a lot of uncertainty about where you’d go in the draft?
I think some of my strengths would be, first of all, just being a big guy and being pretty good technically, which is a good mix. That’s something MLS is looking for, being a pretty athletic league. And if you can put together being athletic and good technique it definitely helps. I’m pretty good on the ball and creating chances for my forwards. I think it’s something that most teams need.
What put me down on the draft boards was probably being an international, that kind of hurt me a little bit. And something else was not being 100 percent fit at the combine. I think that hurt me a little bit. But I think it wasn’t just me, it’s the same for most of the guys. I think for all the guys there wasn’t anybody that was 100 percent fit. [We’re] just coming off the long season of college, then we had a month break. I took two weeks off and I’m sure most of the guys did as well. Then started working out and trying to play a little bit. But up to 90 percent of us didn’t play a match for a month, month and a half.
When you’re at the combine, how comfortable does it feel? Does it feel like game situations or are you mostly trying to feel out your teammates?
I feel like the first game was really hard because you’re playing with guys you’ve never played with before. There’s maybe two, three guys from the same team, and then eight guys from different backgrounds and styles of play, coming from different coaches. I feel like we got to know each other pretty well.
The first game was pretty bad. There weren’t a lot of chances, the pace was pretty slow. But, honestly, the second and the third game was better. We had a chance to spend some time together. Even though we didn’t have much time on the field together, just being off the field, hanging out with the guys really helps. You create confidence and you talk a little bit about everyone’s style. I feel like the days in between the games helped because we got to know each other pretty well.
You talked about coming off a long season. Coach Hackworth said you were coming off an injury and (Coastal Carolina head) Coach Docking said that was part of the reason you played a more holding role this year. How is that feeling now?
I’m 100 percent now. It was something that happened the second or third day of preseason. I kind of overstretched a muscle. I sat out for a week. And it’s my senior year so I want to play, Coach Docking wants me to play, and we just tried to get over that injury even though it wasn’t hurting. It was still bothering me every time I played. Over the season, it got better and I had a chance to rehab.
It was my senior year and I was only taking a couple of classes because I was pretty advanced to graduate. And that helped me a lot because I had a lot of time to rehab and do exercises, strengthening my leg. By the end of the season I was 100 percent already. So it wasn’t an issue at the end of the season when it came to the Big South tournament and the NCAA tournament. I was 100 percent. I had a couple weeks off after the season to rest, and then the combine and getting drafted, and now some time off to get healthy for preseason.
Coach Docking said he was able to use you effectively all over the field. Where do you see yourself playing at the next level? Where are you comfortable on the field?
I feel like it was good and bad to be all over the field because I could see the game from different perspectives. It’s important to go to the next level being able to play different positions because your coaches at the next level are probably going to put you in a position they think you’re most effective at. It was bad as well because I couldn’t get used to a position and be specifically good at that, better than I actually am now. It was good and bad, I’d say. It’s good now though.
I see myself a little more central. If I’m in the midfield, a little more central. But more offensively as well. I like going forward a lot and I like running with the ball. Playing holding mid, that’s not something I should be doing a lot. I should be more worried about protecting the center backs and defending.
When I played at Reading, I was actually playing as a forward, as a wide forward on the right side. That was something Coach Brendan liked a lot because I could cut inside and use a lot of my left foot to try and find players or maybe take a shot. And it worked pretty well with the system that we had at Reading. It may be something that, in preseason, I’m going to work on.
It depends on what Coach John and Coach Brendan want from me. If they want me to play as a forward, I’ll play as a forward. If they want me to play as a midfielder, I’ll play as a midfielder. It just depends on what they need and what they want me to do.
You mentioned being a big guy. Are you worried at all about coming to MLS and having a target on you because of your size? Having other guys be physical with you early on?
I’m really excited about it. It’s going to be a tough transition. It is for 100 percent of the guys. I’m ready for it. I’m ready to get into that and see what I can do at a higher level. Playing in college, it was different as well. It was different when I first came from Brazil. I feel like I adapted pretty well to it.
Of course, it’s going to be a lot harder at a higher level. Technically, the guys are a lot better, and physically as well. In college, I was pretty much the biggest guy on the field in most of our games and now they’ll be my size or even bigger. That combination of being big and trying to get better technically will help.
You talked about the transition and how a lot of guys have trouble with it. You know you’re going to make a mistake or two early, and in college you might feel like you can get away with it because you know your spot is assured. How do you keep a short memory now when you know your every touch will be scrutinized?
When I first got to college it was pretty much the same thing. I had a scholarship coming from Brazil and my coach had never actually seen me playing. Yeah, he saw me playing on a video. So I had to prove myself throughout my freshman and sophomore year. And then my junior year and senior year I knew I was going to be on the field all or most of the time.
Coming into the professional level, I feel like it will be close to that. Of course there is a little more pressure. I’ll just have to prove myself every day in practice and every day that I get on the field I have to prove myself again and show the coaches that I’m ready.
Philly is the kind of town that can really appreciate a guy that wears his heart on his sleeve. Amobi, Ray, Sheanon, those guys that you mentioned, they can get pretty emotional during the game. Are you that type of player? Or do you try to stay stoic on the field and keep your emotions in check?
I was more of a quiet guy and don’t show a lot of emotions during the game. That’s something I worked on in my four years here, especially when I became a captain my sophomore to junior year. Coach wanted me to be more talkative, get the guys pumped a little bit. So I feel like I changed a little bit. But I’m more of a guy that keeps my emotions. I don’t know, I just try to translate that into my game.
Of course, I always give my best. And I absolutely hate losing. When I’m on the field, winning is the only option for me. I’ll do anything to win.
I know you took some free kicks for Coastal Carolina. Is that something of a specialty?
I used to do it a lot when I was younger and I always liked it. It’s something that I started training a lot here at Coastal, especially my last two years. Because at practice I took a couple and they went in, and then they were like… why not? So I tried it in the games and I’d stay after practice to do it. And I know it worked a little because I scored one goal this year and had a couple junior year and maybe a few more sophomore year. But it’s definitely something that I think I can get better at. The more I practice the better it translates in the game.
But being a big guy, sometimes they don’t want me to take the free kicks, they want me to go in the box. The smallest guy would take it and they make me go head the ball in the box.
So do you have a goal celebration picked out already?
Nah, I’ve got to think about that. I have no idea. I really have no clue. I’m going to try and figure out something nice. Right now I’m just worried about getting on the team, that’s it.
So if you’re on the field, fans are going to come up with a good nickname for you eventually. Do you have one you prefer that you want to put out there now?
I’ll let them pick one for me. That’s my new family, I’ll let them choose it. I don’t have any that I really like, so I’m sure they’re going to pick a better one than I’ve had before.