Stefano Pinho of Miami FC celebrates one of this three goals against Orlando City SC (MLS) in the Fourth Round of the 2017 US Open Cup. Photo: Miami FC
Stefano Pinho finally feels at home in America.
The Miami FC forward, who was voted TheCup.us Player of the Round for the Fifth Round of the 2017 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup, is feeling confident and settled in his third year playing professionally in the United States.
Playing in a global city, for a global footballing icon, on a great team helps. But the secret to that happiness? Being a new Dad.
“I’m a father now, and it changes everything,” Pinho said on a classically humid but not unpleasant Miami June day last week. “My son watches me in the stands and I want to show him that effort and attention to detail and playing hard matter.”
His son must be pleased with what he’s seeing. The product of storied Brazilian side Fluminense has scored seven goals in all competitions and tallied two assists, and has Miami FC poised for even more in the Open Cup.
Stefano Pinho of Miami FC becomes the third Brazilian in the Modern Era to score a hat trick in the US Open Cup. The previous two are also Miami-based: Welton of the Miami Fusion (MLS) in 2000 and Paulo Jr. of Miami FC (USL) in 2010. Photo: Miami FC
“There’s no question we have a chance to keep winning,” Pinho said. “We have the best players in NASL in Poku and Enzo (fellow forward Vincenzo Rennella). It’s easy to play with those guys. You’ve seen the results. We can rely on talent but we also can beat you with tactics. When you know and trust the tactics, it is easier to play aggressively with confidence.”
Stefano Pinho’s talent has been on display wherever he’s gone since arriving in America.
His spell with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers saw him lead the league in scoring in 2015, and while he didn’t score as prolifically as he would have liked last year with Minnesota United, his movements and presence helped Christian Ramirez score 18 goals for the MLS-bound Loons. This season, as a new Dad playing in a stable situation in Miami, Pinho has felt looser and more confident.
“It’s the happiest I’ve been,” Pinho said. “I’ve played for good teams before and I’ve played for great managers like Gunter (Kronsteiner, who managed him with the Strikers). But now I have both and I’m happy off the field.”
Pinho says it is different for a player to play for an icon like Miami FC manager Alessandro Nesta.
“With Nesta, he has such a big name in global soccer, if he says, ‘Do this,’ you race to ‘Do this,’” he said with a laugh. “You grow up and see him play for Italy, for Milan, and now he’s your coach. It makes me proud to play for him, but you also want to do well to show him you are a good footballer.”
Pinho also thinks he’s benefited from playing for a defender, as strange as that is for a forward to say. He credits Nesta’s tactical mind for the victory over Orlando City.
“(Nesta) saw how high and wide they’ll push their fullbacks and thought we would have space in the channels,” Pinho said. “We did. We saw the space and cycled the ball there and attacked it and I was able to finish.”
Pinho was able to finish, becoming the first player in the history of Orlando City’s stadium to tally a hat trick. Again, the Brazilian deflected credit.
“I’ve improved playing for Gunter, who has a clever tactical mind. I’ve improved playing for Nesta, who is teaching me how defenders think,” he said. “If you play for a defender as great as he was, you soak in what he knows about defender movement and you learn from it. Plus, he appreciates forwards because you need goals to win games.”
Fortunately for Miami FC and their manager, Stefano Pinho has delivered plenty of those.
Pinho was the runaway winner of the award for Round 4. The battle for second place was fairly wide open. Other players who received consideration included Djiby Fall (FC Cincinnati, USL), Julian Buescher (D.C. United, MLS), Dennis Castillo (Colorado Rapids, MLS), and Mitch Hildebrandt (FC Cincinnati, USL)
Neil W. Blackmon is the co-founder and editor of The Yanks Are Coming. He is a member of the North American Soccer Reporters and his work has appeared in Howler Magazine, Eight by Eight Magazine, MLSSoccer.Com, SB Nation and ESPN FC, among other publications.