Graciano, congratulations on signing with F.C. New York this season. This is your second professional contract in as many years. You signed your first deal in Portugal and featured as a key player in the Operario squad. Why did you decide not to renew your contract with the club and take on this opportunity with a first year team back here in the states?
It was great to sign with a team in Portugal, it was a dream come true. When I was a kid, I dreamt of playing in the Portuguese league and this dream became a reality last year. Although I was doing well, it was a very hard season for me because of injuries. During my time there I sustained many injuries that prevented me from being able to play my best. I chose not to renew my contract because the organization and I could not agree to terms of a contract. Then, another opportunity came, and I took it.
You were a prolific goal scorer at Quinnipiac University. In 2008 you led the nation in scoring and were named to the All-America team as well as NEC Player of The Year. How did your experiences at Quinnipiac prepare you for the professional game?
When I first started playing at Quinnipiac University I didn't have any intention of playing professional soccer. The idea of playing professionally all started with my coach, Eric Da Costa. Eric is a fearless coach that believes that his team can beat any team on any given day. By being that fearless he always scheduled difficult games for us to play against top teams in the nation. Having a difficult schedule and playing very well against good teams made us believe that we were near the level of top teams and players in nation. With this belief I started working hard and training with the idea of soccer as my profession. I focused my training towards the chance of playing professional soccer. But the dream of becoming a professional soccer player only became true because of the success of the Quinnipiac soccer team. By having a successful team, it attracted coaches and scouts, and that's how opportunities came.
The F.C. New York home opener must have been a special moment for you. The ovation you received from the crowd was fantastic! Describe that moment and how it felt to have so many family and friends in the stands?
It was a very special day for me. There is no better feeling in the world then when you are walking in the field and you see people who you care about (family and friends) cheering for you. It is a very emotional and exciting feeling that is hard to describe. It was especially great after being in Portugal and not having any friends or family watching me, for them to be able to be a part of this with me is great.
New York is a great sports market. How have both the home fans and the fans around the league compared to some of the atmospheres you encountered in Portugal?
I am very surprised with the fan base in this league. Both home and away games have has large attendance, some games nearing 9,000 fans, However, these are fans that you only see in the stands at the games. In Portugal, soccer is part of their lives. The fans you see in the stands are also at practices, in the same restaurants and shops, and are always trying to talk to you about the games. In Portugal, most often the club is a representation of the city, and the fans take it very personal how you represent them. Also, the atmosphere is very different. Fans in Portugal sing anthems throughout the game and have a constant roar in the stands, Their passion comes from their love and knowledge of the game of soccer. Here in the USL, it seems like the games are entertainment and many fans come to games for fun, or to learn more about soccer in general.
You have made an immediate impact on F.C. New York having played 90 minutes in every one of your teams matches thus far. In your last three matches you have scored two goals and recorded one assist. As a result of those performances you were selected to the USL team of the week. Your first goal was special because it marked the first win in Franchise History and now you will forever be linked with this clubs monumental moment. Describe that goal for us and the feeling you felt at that moment?
At the moment, it just felt exhilarating to score a goal and push our team toward its first win, which was our priority. The fact that I was able to be a part of this club's history is an honor. The team worked very hard to accomplish our first win and we all deserved to mark that night in history.
Your story has been well documented. From your arrival to the United States barely able to speak the language to attending Post University, then on to be a stand out college player at Quinnipiac, then a professional in Portugal and now with FC New York. Thinking back to when you were a young boy in Cabo Verde could you have ever imagined your life would have taken the path it has?
Coming from a poor family, my mom nearly prohibited playing soccer with the fear I would be hurt and we could not afford the medical treatment. To know I had to practically sneak around playing soccer as a little boy, and now to think about my life as a professional soccer player is pretty ironic. It is truly a blessing from God that I have been able to get to this point, and I never take anything for granted. Needless to say, I never in a million years would have thought my life would become what it is.
Several of your former teammates from Quinnipiac are also enjoying professional playing careers of their own. Is there something in the water over there at QU?
I truly believe the success of former Quinnipiac players is a result of the support and community among the team, starting with Eric Da Costa. As mentioned before, he inspired all of his players to believe they compete in the highest level of soccer and trained us accordingly. I am not surprised many Quinnipiac players are succeeding professionally; I am surprised there are so few. There are many more talented players from the time I was playing at QU who could be in the same position as me.
The program at Quinnipiac has many very promising young players that are hoping to follow in your footsteps. What would be some advice you would give them?