Brito Watch: Nation’s Leading Goal Scorer Leads The ‘Pac
By Zach Smart
Five years ago, Graciano Brito could never have imagined this. Operating offense as a point guard on the 17-and-under Cape Verde national basketball team, Brito was focused on weighing his pro stock in hoops. Thoughts about leaving his homeland to pursue a basketball career in Europe might have surfaced time and time again. The Quinnipiac striker feared that if he stayed in Sao Nicolau, Cape Verde, he would have relinquished talent, never knowing where his athletic aptitude could have steered him.
College was out of the question.
But the road to success is not straight, and after quickly learning the nuances of organized soccer, buying into Eric Da Costa’s system, and making a silky transition to American academics, Brito remains the NCAA national leader in goals (1.4) and points per game (3.0).
After garnering Brine/NEC Player of the Week accolades for the week of October 8, Brito made a clutch assist on Danilo Schiavon’s game-winner in the Bobcats’ 1-0 victory over Holy Cross on Oct. 9. Schiavon, who has come into his own this season, has scored in each of the last two games. The victory vaulted the ‘Cats to first place in a game originally post-poned due to inclement weather.
The Bobcats’ scintillating 8-0-1 (2-0 NEC) start is the best in conference history.
Brito has recorded 11 goals through nine games this season, evolving into the face of the NEC. More and more teams have been doubling (some teams even tripling) up on the jet-quick forward, shifting their defensive focus on what they perceive as one-man band.
His teammates, namely a slew of sophomores, deserve much of the credit for getting him the ball. Fabricio Silva, Pierre Soubrier, Ross McGibney, and defender Shane Recklet—a former All-American at nearby Shelton High—have played significant roles this year, after wrestling for clock time last season.
Brito says his scoring production has brought him little satisfaction this season, as his real goals are catapulting into one of the northeast’s upper-echelon teams. An early-season win over Boston College put them on the map, and the ‘Cats haven’t let up much since.
In capturing national visibility this season, Brito has become the program’s most lauded player since legendary forward Maciel “Eric” Everson. Everson, who graduated in 2002, currently plays professionally for the Western Mass Pioneers in the USL. He has also established his own business, the Everson Soccer Academy. (www.eversonsoccer.com).
Brito and the Bobcats will be put to the test this Sunday as they trek to New Britain, Conn., and renew their longtime in-state rivalry with Central Connecticut. Central is off to a meager 3-6 start, but rivalry games always carry that extra fluid. Central has had the upper-hand on Quinnipiac the past two years.
Last year, Central coasted to a 4-1 road victory, delivering coach Shaun Green his 200th career win.
This year, Central is without the services of England-bred forward Alex Harrison, the former NEC Player of the Year, All-New England selection, and academic All-American. With coaches and fans flocking to see Harrison last year, the then-senior notched two goals while dishing out an assist to lead the Blue Devils.
Expect the game to receive much of the same attention this year. This time around, however, all eyes are on Brito.