Local players take step in climbing the international soccer pyramid

Mark Lorenz for the Boston Globe
Rodrigo Ferreira Barbosa (right), a Medford Youth Soccer coach, battles for the ball during the tryout.

REVERE – Rodrigo Ferreira Barbosa has been working as a coach with Medford Youth Soccer and training on his own, just in case a professional team happened to be looking for players.

Then last month, Barbosa, 31, got his chance. He joined about 50 other prospects for a two-hour tryout with the Boston City Football Club at Harry Della Russo Stadium.

Barbosa played collegiately in Kansas at Barton County Community College and Friends College. While growing up in Sao Paulo, Barbosa was a fan of Palhinha, who played for Brazil’s national team in the ’90s.


The tryout attracted a mix of former collegians and high schoolers; others who recently moved to the area; and even a 16-year-old former New England Revolution Academy star.

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“Get used to me being nice today,” BCFC coach Palhinha said before the workout. “That will change during the season.”

The former Brazilian star’s comment broke the ice, evoking laughter from some in the group, others joining in after it was translated from Portuguese. Once the scrimmages started, though, everyone was all business.

“He [Palhinha] asked me if I was able to go to practice every day, so that’s a good sign. “Hopefully, I can start practicing with them,” Barbosa said.

“I really think if I push hard enough I could get somewhere with it, and this is a start,” said Omar Alba, 21, a UMass-Boston student from Orlando. “You have to start local. This is an incredible program and I’d love to be a part of it. Within the soccer community, it’s definitely a growing program. It’s being talked about more and more, you really do hear about it.”


Alba’s chances of making the team?

“[Palhinha] knows my name,” Alba said. “I think that’s a start.”

Harvard graduate student Wouter Dronkers, 24, displayed impressive credentials, having played for The Netherlands Under-21 national team.

“Studying over here is a once in a lifetime opportunity,” said Dronkers, who rode his bicycle from Cambridge to the stadium. “I heard about Boston City, that they train in the evening and it’s a decent level. So, there’s no problem with school and it is a chance to play soccer at a decent level.”

Boston City FC is set to begin its third year of play in the fourth division of the National Premier Soccer League in April. The club, which plays its home matches at Malden Catholic High School’s Brother Gilbert Field, plans to hold more tryouts.


“There were some very good players, both local and players who relocated here,” said Craig Tornberg, the team’s managing director. “Palhinha is very fair about it. Last year, he selected a good number of players to get called into second and third training sessions and some, ultimately, stayed and trained with us.

“It is hard to determine how many have a chance. Players develop at all different rates. A player not ready today might be ready in a year. The greatest thing about having a team in the Boston area is it provides inspiration for these players. They know there’s a local option for them where they can showcase.”

Samuel Deossa, 16, a sophomore with the Watertown High team who formerly played at the Revolution Academy, fit in well with the older players as an outside left back.

“Working with somebody 16 years old sounds like a very young player to people in the US, but in world football it’s not,” Tornberg said.

“Making decisions from 16 and up is important for a player’s career, especially if they want to make an impact on the world stage. [Deossa] was incredibly impressive and more impressive, based on his age. We’re going to determine the best options to suggest to him.”

Goalkeeper Wouter Dronkers of Cambridge, reacts after a goal was made against him, at the Boston City FC first open tryouts of the offseason. Players are hoping for a place on the team's 2018 squad. Mark Lorenz for the Boston Globe.
Mark Lorenz for the Boston Globe
Goalkeeper Wouter Dronkers of Cambridge reacts after a goal got past him.

Frank Dell’Apa can be reached at