In the first half of the 1990s decade, Cobi Jones, Jorge Acosta and Desmond Armstrong all earned call-ups from South American leagues. Cardoso is ready to end that drought that followed.
Born in Denville, New Jersey, Cardoso was raised in his Porto Alegre, Brazil where he has blossomed into a promising defensive midfielder.
Cardoso’s emergence shouldn’t come as a surprise. In September 2019, he made his first-team debut for Internacional at the age of just 17. Tipped off by a scout that Cardoso was an American and now playing for a Brazilian league title contender, Berhalter promptly contacted Cardoso, who goes by just “Johnny” in Brazil, and invited him to participate with the U.S. U-23 team for a camp in November.
That camp proved to be an enormous success for Cardoso, who was honored to make his first international appearance at any level when he played in the second half of the U.S. U-23 team’s 6-1 win over El Salvador.
“It was such a special opportunity in my career,” Cardoso said following that camp. “It’s the result of work I have been building at Inter that was awarded with the opportunity to represent the national team. I was very surprised with the quality of all players in the team. I have had a very good experience with the team, with a lot of learning from Jason [Kreis]. It was indeed a very good experience.”
In 2020, that success only continued for Cardoso. His role on Internacional’s first team expanded from mere cameos and into a more regular role. In Brazil, the year typically kicks off with local state tournaments followed by the national leagues. He was a regular starter for Internacional’s games in the Campeonato Gaúcho and then began earning regular minutes off the bench in Serie A.
Just before the leagues around the world shut down due to COVID-19, Berhalter even said that Cardoso was likely to have been called up for the March friendlies and was a player who he rated. Now he will have a chance to make his U.S. national team debut.
For Cardoso, there is potentially a lot of soccer ahead for him with the United States. As a player born in 2001 who turns 20 next September, Cardoso is eligible for the 2021 U.S. U-20 team, the 2021 U-23 Olympic team, the 2024 U-23 Olympic team, then the full national team.
Based on his experience last year with the U-23 team, Carodoso is happy to be a part of it all.
“We always dream with these goals,” Cardoso said. “Of course, it was always a dream and I was very happy to represent the team. It was a fantastic experience."
But future involvement will, of course, be predicated on how he does with Internacional. Coach Eduardo Coudet, who played for the Philadelphia Union in 2010 and the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers in 2011, seems inclined to keep giving Cardoso opportunities.
Thus far in 2020, Cardoso has made four appearances in the Gaucho, five appearances in Serie A, one appearance in the Copa do Brazil, and three appearances in the Copa Libertadores. He only recently returned from missing nearly a month of action due to a hamstring injury.
And Johnny has been part of very impressive winning efforts. Internacional currently sit atop the Serie A standings, it is alive in the Copa do Brazil, and later this month it will meet Boca Juniors in the quarterfinals of the Copa Libertadores in a matchup of two of South America’s biggest clubs.
On Sunday, Cardoso will play in his final game for Internacional before leaving to play for the United States in Wales when it hosts Coritiba in Porto Alegre. His involvement in these games shows how far and wide U.S. players are making impacts across the globe – from the MLS playoffs, to the UEFA Champions League, and now to the top of Brazil and the Copa Libertadores.