Kevin Oliveira and Steevan dos Santos are a long way from home. With the addition of Oliveira from the Swope Park Rangers for the 2018 season, Ottawa Fury FC’s tally of Cape Verdean players rose to two. For those who may be unaware with this tiny, predominantly Portuguese-speaking island nation, Cape Verde encompasses 10 tiny islands just off the coast of West Africa.
Cape Verde has produced an impressive crop of soccer players throughout their history. Their players are scattered throughout the highest competitions across the globe, some of which include Galatasaray of the Turkish Super Lig, Spartak Moscow of the Russian Premier League, Dijon FCO of France’s Ligue, and plenty throughout Portugal’s Primeira Liga. Not bad for a country with a population of just under 540 000.
Joining Benfica’s youth system as a 14 year old in 2010, Kevin Oliveira eventually made the jump to North American soccer, joining Swope Park Rangers in 2016, and eventually featuring in 2 MLS games for Sporting Kansas City in 2017. In that same year, Oliveira joined the elite of Cape Verde’s soccer talents, making his debut for the national team as a second-half substitute during a FIFA World Cup Qualifier against Senegal.
Meanwhile, Fury FC fans are plenty familiar with Steevan dos Santos. Dos Santos won Fury FC Top Scorer of the Year Award by setting the record for goals scored in a single season with 10 in regular season and 12 in all competitions. Internationally, Steevan has also had the chance to represent Cape Verde by lacing up against Catalonia in December of 2013. Fury FC’s two Cape Verdeans boast lengthy and impressive resumes, so it comes as no surprise that the team’s success may also coincide with their own achievements.
Point in case was the 2-0 win over Atlanta United 2 at TD Place on Saturday afternoon, where the opening goal was scored by Dos Santos in the 26th minute of the match. The goal was the 28-year-old Cape Verdean’s first of the season, and after going 5 games without one, will prove crucial for his confidence moving forward.
Head coach Nikola Popovich’s post-game comments reflected this sentiment:
“I think it was very important, every striker needs the confidence of scoring goals. His [Dos Santos] performance is getting better, his understanding of what we want - it’s different than last year so I think he is adapting and like all the players, I think they are performing much better now than at the beginning of the season.”
The goal itself was a tricky one. After an incredible run by Adonijah Reid down the left flank, he served the ball to Captain Carl Howarth who’s “pass” eventually trickled to an open Dos Santos. The 6-foot-4 striker still had two defenders along the goal line to beat, but managed to get a deflection into the top corner of the net. After the game, you got the sense that a weight had been lifted from his shoulders.
“It’s always good to score and when the team wins… It was quite difficult because they had two players on the goal line, but the ball got the deflection and made it to the top corner. It was important to start the way we did and to get the goal in order to give us confidence for the rest of the game.”
Coming into the May 12th fixture, Kevin Oliveira led the team in shots, and had proven himself to be the catalyst for Fury FC’s offensive chances. Whether it’s slotting one into the cage himself or setting up a goal, Fury FC are looking to Oliveira to begin converting his chances. On Saturday, there were encouraging signs from the 21 year old. His partnership with Adonijah Reid proved dangerous and much too cumbersome for the Atlanta defensive line, eventually cracking in the 26th minute.
The strength of this Fury FC side might ultimately depend on their goofy yet soft-spoken Cape Verdean internationals.