The Elon University men’s soccer team has a unique mix of international players on their roster, all of whom have a story to tell about how they wound up playing for the Phoenix. But none of them have a story quite like the one junior forward Caue Da Silva has. From Southern Brazil to Elon, N.C. — with a stop in the Mississippi Delta wedged in between — Da Silva’s passion for the game has taken him on a path few others has ventured.
All soccer, all the time
Da Silva grew up in Rio Grande do Sul, the Southernmost state in Brazil, in the town of São Sebastião do Caí. It wasn’t long before Da Silva discovered his passion for the game so many in his country hold dear.
“I always tell people (from other countries) that we don’t have any other sport back home,” Da Silva said. “We grew up surrounded by soccer fields. If we don’t have a soccer field, we make one. You don’t have any other option. It’s something everyone has a passion for. You just end up playing that sport.”
With help from his father, Carlo Roger, a former professional himself for two years in Portugal, Da Silva began making a name for himself. When Da Silva was 9-years old, he starred in a friendly match between his town’s club team and EC Juventude’s youth team. Soon after, EC Juventude reached out to him.
“They called me a few days later and talked to my parents about me joining them,” Da Silva said. “It was a great experience.”
Da Silva played for Juventude and trained at their youth academy until he was 16, at which point he was faced with a critical decision, one all young men in Brazil have to make at that age.
“The thing about soccer in Brazil is that when you come to the U-16 age, you have to make a decision, a life decision,” Da Silva said. “You either get an academic degree or you try to become a professional player.”
So Da Silva set his sights on the United States, knowing that playing soccer at an American university would continue his drive toward becoming a professional while at the same time helping him earn a academic degree.
Coming to America
With the help of SAB sports, a company many foreign-born athletes use to contact colleges in the United States, Da Silva was able to get in-touch with several college programs around the country. There was just one problem. The NCAA denied Da Silva’s request for Div. I eligibility, meaning he would have to play at a smaller Div. II or III school before making the jump to Div. I.
His only remaining offer came from Delta State University, a small Div. II school in Cleveland, Mississippi. Before accepting the school’s offer, however, Da Silva wanted to make sure one thing was crystal clear: he wouldn’t be staying long.
“When I went to Delta State, I had a conversation with my coach that I would transfer after my first year to a D-I college,” Da Silva said. “After the season, he helped me through the process of finding a D-I school.”
While a member of the Statesmen, Da Silva helped the team to an 8-11-1 record and their first trip to the Gulf South Tournament. Meanwhile, Da Silva broke nearly every single-season record at the school, including points, points per game, goals and goals per game. Along the way, he was named Gulf South Conference Co-Player of the Year with Richard Dixon of West Florida University, Freshman of the Year and first team All-Gulf South.
Da Silva then reconnected with SAB sports, which helped him find a group of Div. I programs that were interested in his services. One of those schools was Elon, who had been given a tip by a reliable source that there was a talented forward from the Mississippi Delta they should look into.
“We’re always looking for players, ad different leads on players” Elon head coach Darren Powell said. “We got a lead on Caue and got good references from people we know within the game and then were able to get some video and watch him a couple of times on video, and we liked what we saw.”
However, the Statesmen were going through a coaching change, which prevented Powell and his staff from seeing Da Silva play in person. With only his tape to rely on, the Elon coaching staff did some investigating of their own into Da Silva’s character in order to decide whether or not to pursue him further.
After receiving nothing but positive reviews of the young forward, Powell and his staff began talking to Da Silva on a “regular basis.” After he was released from his scholarship at Delta State, Powell brought him up for an official visit, where he met the team and learned about the program he was interested in joining.
It was on that visit that senior midfielder Danny Lovitz first met Da Silva. It was his job to host Da Silva and see if he was the right fit for the program. Although it was ultimately the coach’s decision whether or not to bring Da Silva into the program, Lovitz and his teammates had a large say in the process. It didn’t matter, though, as Da Silva was a hit with his future teammates right away.
“(The coaching staff) told us he was a good player, but they wanted to get our take on how he was as a person,” Lovitz said. “We’re really a tight-knit group and we know the kind of people we like to have be a part of this family and (Da Silva) stuck out as one of those people. So we gave coach the go-ahead.”
Da Siva joined the Phoenix and has three goals and two assists while appearing in 12 games this season. Da Silva scored the game-winning golden goal in overtime against the Davidson College Wildcats to give the Phoenix a 3-2 win Saturday, Oct. 26.
While Da Silve is still getting his feet set at Elon, junior forward Jason Waterman sees more in Da Silva than a dynamic playmaker who knows how to find the back of the net. He sees Da Silva as someone he loves to spend time with, on and off the pitch.
“It’s been really cool getting to know him,” Waterman said. “He obviously grew up in a very different culture so it’s cool to talk to him about that and learn about where he’s from.”
The next task
In the regular season finale, Da Silva will be thrust into a game against the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with the Phoenix fighting for their SoCon title lives. Kick between the two teams is set for 7 p.m. on Rudd Field.