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July 10, 2014

Tampa Bay Rowdies, UConn soccer champ Pedro DeBrito dies after car crash in Miami

Although Pedro DeBrito retired from professional soccer in 1994, the game seldom left him.

Although Pedro DeBrito retired from professional soccer in 1994, the game seldom left him.

At age 43, DeBrito started for Soccer Locker as a sweeper at a Copa Latina soccer tournament in Hialeah. He helped the team win 3-0 over Estudiantes del Guayas.

He still played in an over-50 league every week, his sister Vera DeBrito-Esdaile said from her home in New Haven, Ct.

“He played every minute he could get outside,” she said. “He belonged to a junior league in Lisbon and if my father would ground him he’d find a way to sneak out and go out and play. Soccer was in his blood forever.”

DeBrito, 55, died July 5 from injuries sustained in a car accident two days earlier in South Miami-Dade, his brother John DeBrito said.

He was on his way to work when his car hit a tree in the median.

He was a former New York Cosmos outside back, 1982 North American Soccer League Rookie of the Year for the Tampa Bay Rowdies where he played as a forward and a two-time All-American at the University of Connecticut,

At UConn, DeBrito became a sports icon as a forward and played 100 games for the school, scoring 43 goals in four seasons. DeBrito had 20 assists at UConn in 1979 and again in 1981, a school soccer record that still stands. He had 59 assists in his college career, an all-time UConn leader.

UConn head coach Ray Reid played against DeBrito when the two attended neighboring schools in Connecticut. Reid, a 1982 graduate of Southern Connecticut State University, considers DeBrito “the greatest player in the history of the UConn program,” he said. “He was a two-time All-American, an all-time leader in assists, a great guy, revered by people, great attitude.

“To be honest, if Pedro was 26 today, he’d be starting for the US Cup. He probably would have been the best league player,” said Reid, a 17-season head coach at UConn. Reid also coached John DeBrito for four years at Southern Connecticut during his eight seasons there as head coach.

Born on the São Nicolau island of Cape Verde, DeBrito and his family moved to Lisbon, Portugal in 1971 and to Waterbury, Ct. when he was 15.

After his retirement from 13 years of professional soccer, where he also played for the Dallas Sidekicks, Albany Capitals and Detroit Rockers, DeBrito moved to Miami and worked as a manager at Drew Estate Cigar Company for 13 years.

“They call me the old man, but as long as my body keeps up, I’m going to play,” DeBrito said in a 2003 Miami Herald article. “As you get older, there are things you can’t do. But the love and heart I have for soccer won’t change.”

The love for the sport runs deep in the family. Younger brother John, 45, also played professionally for numerous teams including the Tulsa Ambush, Boston Storm, New York Fever, New England Revolution, Kansas City Wizards and Dallas Burn. His five sisters also played the sport for various leagues or for recreation.

“The reason I play soccer is all because of my brother,” said John DeBrito from his Miami home. “I was getting the pleasure to watch him play at UConn. I was ‘Pedro’s little brother’ and he was an exceptional player. People enjoyed watching him play.”

DeBrito also is survived by his parents, John and Angelina DeBrito of Miami, and sisters Fernanda and Valeriana DeBrito, Angela DeBrito-Job and Maria Paula Camoes.

Services and burial will be in Waterbury, Conn.

Follow @HowardCohen on Twitter.

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