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Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Wings goalkeeper wants to become household name

BY JEFFREY LUTZ
The Wichita Eagle

A Brazilian soccer player isn't a Brazilian soccer star until his full name is reduced to a singular title.

His countrymen had many options when deciding on a one-word handle for Wings goalkeeper Sanaldo Freitas de Carvalho. His peers tried calling him "Freitas" for a while, and Wichita coach LeBaron Hollimon refers to Carvalho as "Sana."

The most recognizable soccer icons in Brazil — such as Pele and Ronaldo — just keep it simple, though, and doing so was good enough for Carvalho. His one-name status hasn't completely caught on with Wichita fans just yet, but when he returns home he is known as Sanaldo.

"If I tell you my full name, you're going to be like, 'Yes, it's better as Sandaldo,' " Carvalho said. "The first day I tried it with my middle name, Fritas, people started calling me 'Fritos.' So they said, 'What about Carvalho? We can pronounce Carvalho.'

"I said, 'What about Sanaldo?' They were like, 'Perfect. Your first name is good.' That's why we just go with the first name."

Beginning to decide on the perfect name for Carvalho could have happened the day he was born, exactly 34 years ago, because Brazilians usually have no choice but to play soccer.

"In Brazil, the first gift is a soccer ball," Carvalho said.

Carvalho's childhood was no different. If he didn't have a soccer ball, he would find any ball and use it to play.

The endless practice helped. Carvalho turned professional at 17, playing for several high-level teams in Brazil.

"Always we just have fun with the soccer ball," Carvalho said. "We didn't have that many choices like kids in America. Here, there's baseball, football, basketball, volleyball and stuff like that. (In Brazil) it doesn't matter if you have a volleyball or whatever. You put it down and start playing (soccer) right away."

Athletes typically don't gravitate to soccer because of their hand skills, and those that Carvalho possesses were undiscovered for the first nine years of his life, when he played forward.

Then Carvalho met the Brazilian national team keeper, Paulo Cesar, who gave the young Carvalho a glove and sparked Carvalho's love of manning the net.

"I think it was the right time to change everything," Carvalho said. "When I got the glove, I really liked it and I really changed my life. In Brazil, if you turn 15 and you're a forward, you're never going to have a chance to play in goal."

Carvalho struggled to advance professionally with endless competition in Brazil, and he came to the United States in 2003. He has played indoor soccer every year since, which required an adjustment from his days in Brazil but not a major one.

Carvalho had limited experience playing indoors recreationally in Brazil, but that game isn't taken too seriously there so his opportunities were limited. Still, when he arrived in the U.S., he was a natural at the faster-paced game.

By 2006, Carvalho was an MISL star, leading Baltimore to the league title and being named MVP of the championship game. He helped the expansion Detroit Ignition to the MISL title game the following season.

"Players and coaches ask me why I'm so calm when I play," Carvalho said. "I say, 'I've played in Brazil in front of 60,000 people.' Playing here in front of 5,000, this is (easy) for me."

Like many indoor players in the United States, Carvalho has played for many teams in many cities. Carvalho plans on spending the rest of his career with the Wings, long enough for the passionate fan base to start calling him Sanaldo.

"I want to be here for the next three or four years," Carvalho said. "I really like the team, I really like the city. The crowds really get into the games. I feel like this is going to be my team for the next four years."

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