July 11, 2016

The Best Experience So Far

Reflections on my soccer trip to Brazil

By Peter DiLorenzo, guest contributor

Peter DiLorenzo
Brockport State
#23 | Forward

Year GP-GS G A Pts GW
2012 16-3 1 2 4 0
2013 18-17 13 1 27 2
2014 20-20 14 3 31 6
2015 18-17 13 2 28 5
Career 72-57 41 8 90 13

Each year USA Sports Tours & Events organizes a week-long Brazil tour for Division III soccer players from across the nation. A men's team and a women's team are formed from players recognized at the conference, regional, or national level. The trips are educational and cross-cultural experiences that include several games as well as sightseeing. One of the men's players on this year's trip was Peter DiLorenzo, a recent Brockport State graduate. DiLorenzo scored 13 goals last fall during his senior season and was named a Division III second team All-American by the NSCAA. The Long Island (NY) native also put his name in the Brockport record book, finishing second in career goals and career points for the Golden Eagles. As a special contribution to D3soccer.com, DiLorenzo reports on the 2016 USA D-3 Soccer Brazil Tour from May 24 through June 2.

It isn’t the easiest thing to pack up your bags and go to a different country, but forty-nine of us did as members of the USA D-3 Soccer Brazil Tour with the USA Sports Tours & Events organization. Along with our coaches and guests, sixteen men and fourteen women soccer players from across the nation met in Orlando, most for the first time (some knew each other from school or playing against one another). We were new teammates coming together for the same goal: to experience the game we have been playing our whole lives, representing the United States and D-III in one of the world’s biggest soccer countries, Brazil!

The thirty players who comprised the 2016 USA D-3 Soccer Brazil Tour men's and women's teams.

After arriving in Orlando we met our coaching staff and our new teammates, and went out to dinner before holding our first practice. The players started to click right away and it wasn't surprising that by the end of the trip we were like family. The following day we had a morning practice followed by lunch. We then headed to the airport to finally start our long-anticipated journey to Brazil.

The 2016 USA D-3 Soccer Brazil Tour men's team meets and practices together for the first time in Orlando the night before flying to Brazil.

Well, if only things could always go smoothly, but of course that didn’t happen. Mechanical problems with the plane that was to take us to Miami and then Brazil delayed us an entire day. The extra time spent in the airport brought everyone closer together. Some played games, some made videos and others just wandered, but we had plenty of time to get to know each other. The next day we made it on a flight to Dallas and then Brazil. The delay cost us a day in São Paulo and a game we were scheduled to play there. Although many were upset, most were thankful it wasn’t a day in Rio de Janeiro.

The 2016 USA D-3 Soccer Brazil Tour men's team: (l. to r.) Shingo Yamane (Minnesota-Morris), Marco Saglimbeni (Chapman), Julian Birge (Alma), Andrew Prince (Albion), Kyle Kansman (Alma), Chris Rieger (Washington U.), Peter DiLorenzo (Brockport St.), Ryan Wisdom (UW-Superior), Reyman Solis (UW-Superior), Jon Bucklew (UW-Superior), Thomas Palmer (Maryville), Ben Hammonds (Mary Hardin-Baylor), Kevin Goon (Washington U.) [Not in the picture: J.T. Famularo (Farmingdale St.), Jacob Peterson (Loras), Sam Newman (St. John's), Coach Dan Rothert (Loras)].

The first game for both the men and women was against Valinhos, a club team in Brazil. The men and women sides took tough losses but played amazingly well given that we had been flying for the past ten hours. It had been a tough day, but the food after the game was absolutely amazing. We went to O Bom da Picanha II, a pizzeria with all different kinds of pizza most of which are not usually found in the U.S. In addition there was a buffet with pasta and different Brazilian specialties. I have to believe that everyone’s favorite was the ice cream pizza for dessert. After dinner, we boarded our bus and headed back to the hotel for an early night; we needed to wake up for an 8:30 game the next morning in Campinas.

Team captain Peter DiLorenzo with the referees and the opposite captain before kicking off against their first opponent: Clube Atlético Head Soccer Brasil (Valinhos–SP).

After a tough loss in their first game, the men's team posses for a photo with the victors: Clube Atlético Head Soccer Brasil (Valinhos–SP).

The men and women each played a tough game in Campinas where the women won and the men tied with a controversial penalty shot called in the final minutes of the game. The club and their facility is very nicely equipped with a full gym, Olympic-sized pools, a sand soccer field, in addition to the grass field we had played on. After a long day there, the team boarded the bus for a seven-hour ride to Rio de Janeiro where we would spend the rest of our time in Brazil. During the bus ride music was played and there was a lot of conversing about the trip so far. Everyone was so excited to go to Rio because of the sight-seeing we would do along with staying right on Copacabana beach! After checking in to our hotel and some dinner in Copacabana, we went to Bob’s Burgers for its famous milkshakes which were delicious!

Peter DiLorenzo wins a head ball in the men's second game.

The men's team tied their second opponent, a club team in Campinas–SP.

The following day we toured Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf), an awesome sugarloaf-shaped mountain that can only be reached by cable car. We got a bird’s eye view of Rio from the top. It was absolutely amazing and everyone had a great time.  It was especially cool to follow the walking paths because we got to see monkeys. After our visit to Sugarloaf Mountain we went to the international market on Ipanema beach. Ipanema is a short walk from Copacabana. The market had tons of handcrafted goods and souvenirs for sale from local vendors. It was a very cool experience. We thought we lost one of our players (Shingo), but we found him playing soccer with little Brazilian children in the park. They showed him how it was done! It was a beautiful day and we enjoyed the sights as we walked back to the hotel. After spending the rest of the day on the beaches we went to dinner anticipating what awaited the following day: Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer statue).

Peter Lorenzo before ascending to the top of Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) by cable car on the first day of sightseeing in Rio de Janeiro.

The teams, enjoying their sightseeing in Rio de Janeiro, are excited to go up Corcovado mountain by train to Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer statue).

The Redeemer statue is on a mountain a lot higher than Sugarloaf, so instead of a cable car we took a train that runs along the side of the mountain to the top. The train ride was beautiful as we got to pass through the jungle and look out over the city. Once we got to the top station and climbed a few flights of stairs, we were finally there. The view from the top was absolutely amazing: a bird’s eye perspective of the city of Rio. A favorite view was of the Maracanã, one of the largest soccer stadiums in the world. We were lucky enough to visit the stadium after the Christ statue. After we got back from sightseeing we went straight to the beach until dinner at a Brazilian BBQ restaurant. The food was so good!

(l. to r.) Reyman Solis (UW-Superior), Peter Dilorenzo (Brockport State), and Thomas Palmer (Maryville) at Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer statue) in Rio de Janeiro.

The next day, our last in Brazil, we went to play our final game on the Brazilian naval base in Rio. We ended up playing another club team after finding out that the Navy team we were supposed to play had a game against France at a different location. Both men’s and women’s teams won. After lunch we returned to the hotel and again spent some time shopping and on the beach. It was our last night and everyone hung out 'til the early morning knowing we could sleep on our flight back to the States.

Peter DiLorenzo is congratulated after scoring against F.C. DANF en route to a victory in the team's final game.

Post-game shirt-swap with opponents F.C. DANF following the final game, played on the Brazilian naval base in Rio de Janeiro.

The next morning after breakfast and some free time we headed to the airport to board our flight home. Back in the States, saying our final goodbyes wasn’t easy for anyone. We became such a close family during the trip. Between the flights to and from, the bus rides, the games, the touring, and hanging out at the beach, once random players bonded. I truly believe these people will be lifelong friends and I am beyond excited that I got to share this experience with them.

From strangers to teammates to family in ten quick days, the USA D-3 Soccer Brazil Tour men's and women's teams pose for a photo on the distinctive Copacabana promenade in Rio de Janeiro.

There is a special thanks I’d like to give to Ron Smith who organized this whole trip and made it such an experience for all of us, and of course, to our coaches Dan Rothert (men’s coach from Loras College) and Jeff Cummings (women’s coach from Thomas More College). Without them it just wouldn’t have been the same. Thank you to the parents who joined us for the trip and took a ton of pictures during the games for us. And lastly, thank you to my fellow team members, men and women . . . without you, I wouldn’t have had the time of my life in Brazil.

Peter DiLorenzo enjoys the sunrise and a peaceful moment of reflection on Copacabana beach in Rio de Janeiro.

About USA Sports Tours & Events

USA Sports Tours & Events was founded in 2010 by Ron Smith who has 22 years of men's basketball coaching and administrative experience at the NCAA Division I level. The annual team trips that Smith organized to a variety of international destinations served as good incentives in the recruiting process and more importantly became fantastic "once in a lifetime" experiences for his players, coaches and staff, families and boosters.  Wanting to share these same types of experiences with athletes and coaches regardless of their level of competition, Smith founded USA Sports.

Having learned to love Brazil and its passion for soccer, volleyball and basketball, Smith chose this South American country as the typical destination for his annual tours which were first offered to Division III men's and women's basketball and soccer players in 2010 and 2011, respectively.  In 2013, an annual trip for Division III volleyball players was added and a year later the schedule expanded to include Division II basketball.  Six tours will be offered starting in 2017 with the addition of Division II soccer and volleyball.

Tours include both a men's and a women's team, comprised of players from across the country who have been recognized as All-Americans, All-Region and All-Conference. Tours begin with two days of orientation and practice stateside before flying to Brazil for several matches and a few days of sightseeing over the course of a week. While in Brazil, teams experience educational, cultural and social aspects of Brazilian life through city, school and sports club visits.

Website: www.usasportsevents.com

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