No. 1 MLS SuperDraft pick Daniel Pereira ready to repay Austin FC 'legends'

Daniel Pereira, the No. 1 pick in Thursday's MLS SuperDraft, knew nothing about the soccer scene when he arrived in Virginia from Venezuela with his family in July 2015.

Pereira made the varsity as a freshman at Roanoke's Northside High School, an accomplishment that impressed his friends but meant nothing to him. Varsity? JV? He didn't know the difference.

College? "I was just getting used to the system, like the whole high school thing," he said, "and I didn't even know what college was."

MLS? Pereira says he never watched the league.

The move from Venezuela to escape the violence was difficult.

"It was crazy times," he said. "Venezuela wasn't in a good spot, and my parents knew it was going to get worse. We decided to move to the U.S., trying to look for something better, a better life for me. They pretty much moved here for me. It is one of the biggest sacrifices my parents have done for me, and I appreciate them for that every day. And knowing that it's paid off now, it's beautiful, but it was crazy times."

Austin FC's first pick says he was helped along the way.

"My first year was really tough in high school," Pereira said, "because I didn't know English, but I surrounded myself with good people, teachers, friends, and I think that's why I'm where I'm at today."

In the spring of 2019, he led Northside to the Virginia High School League's Class 3 championship in its first appearance in the state tournament in 11 years and was named the VHSL Player of the Year. Then, he was off to college.

Because he did not come from a Development Academy program -- he played for Roanoke-based Virginia Blue Ridge Star -- Pereira was not on the radar of MLS scouts in 2019 when he enrolled at Virginia Tech, but that quickly changed after he made the league's all-freshman team with five goals and five assists for the Hokies.

"I like experiencing new things, so I think that was a good thing that I experienced," he said. "And then in college, I never thought I'd be a pro. It was my goal, but I just always kept grinding, kept putting the work in and it's paying off for now."

Pereira, who describes himself as a box-to-box midfielder, didn't know he'd be taken with the No. 1 pick -- he figured Kenyan Philip Mayaka from ACC rival Clemson would be the top pick -- but he impressed Austin FC head coach Josh Wolff.

“Danny is a very good player and has good potential," Wolff said. "He plays a number of positions in the midfield, he’s very comfortable between lines. We’ve picked up a player who is ready to come in and play in MLS but also has room to grow. He’s a hungry, humble player.”

Thursday was a big day for Roanoke soccer, the biggest since Danny Karbassiyoon was signed out by Arsenal out of Northside High School in 2003. Irakoze Donasiyano, who played club soccer with Pereira and attended Virginia, was selected by Nashville SC with the No. 20 pick, making Roanoke the only city to have two players taken in the first round of the SuperDraft.

It was an especially big day for Pereira's family. They joined his high school and club coaches in driving to Blacksburg to be with him and his Hokie soccer family watching the draft show at a suite at Lane Stadium, Virginia Tech's football stadium. He said his father was crying before the draft even began and described his selection as an accomplishment for his family "believing the American dream."

"It's an honor," he said on an MLS media call right afterwards. "I'm happy, real happy. My parents are crying. It's a moment I'll never forget."

Pereira might not have known much about American soccer when he arrived from Venezuela in 2015, but he certainly does now, thanking Austin FC sporting director Claudio Reyna and Wolff, teammates on the 2002 U.S. World Cup quarterfinal team, for his selection.

"Knowing that I got picked by some legends," he said, "it's a lot of responsibility I'm ready to take on. I can't wait to get started."

15 comments about "No. 1 MLS SuperDraft pick Daniel Pereira ready to repay Austin FC 'legends'".
  1. frank schoon, January 22, 2021 at 9:31 a.m.

    It would have been nice to spend a sentence or two giving the reader and US coaches a little more info on how Daniel spend his time learning the game ,PICKUP or whatever. This kid is obvious a good player and comes out of nowhere and plays well.... how did he learn?

  2. Rookie NY replied, January 22, 2021 at 10:41 a.m.

    Agreed 

  3. Matt Ebert replied, January 22, 2021 at 10:52 a.m.

    I work at VT and actually played adult rec league with Daniel's older brother for a few years. Daniel was like 13 and would join in those games sometimes and could hold his own. The Roanoke area has a strong pickup culture thats grown out of immigrant families settling in the area, so I assume he's the product of a lot of pickup, hard work, and club ball in the CCL league.

  4. frank schoon replied, January 22, 2021 at 11:16 a.m.

    Thank You Matt, 'interesting'. How old was Daniel when he came to the US? That is great hearing about the Roanoke "Pickup' culture. Why hasn't there been an article written about Roanoke's 'going on's' of pickup culture..I would like to know how much soccer Daniel had in Venezuela or did his main influence was pickup in Roanoke. Have you heard of Pete Johnson who is involved in Roanoke soccer, still?

  5. Kevin Sims replied, January 22, 2021 at 1:02 p.m.

    Article states he arrived in Roanoke from Venezuela in 2015 

  6. frank schoon replied, January 22, 2021 at 1:15 p.m.

    Kevin, How old was he, and how much of a soccer backround did he have...

  7. Glenn Alpert, January 22, 2021 at 3:41 p.m.

    He played for the U14 and U17 Venezuelan national teams. He was in one of venezuela's top youth academies until he moved here. Weird how this was left out ;)

    Wouldn't it be nice if it were just as simple as playing local pickup soccer, playing for your high school team, and becoming the #1 pick in the draft?

  8. frank schoon replied, January 22, 2021 at 5:12 p.m.

    Basicly ,Zlatan finally became involved into organized about when he was 18 ,before that it was plain  pickup. 
     
    Thanks for the info, Glenn, about his backround for there is no way ,I think ,for him to come on the scene without a backround of soccer in the first place.

    I would really like to know how much Pickup was in his development which every South American has in his backround...

  9. Glenn Alpert, January 22, 2021 at 3:43 p.m.

    Played for the youth academy of Deportivo la Guaira, which plays in Venezuela's first division

  10. humble 1 replied, January 25, 2021 at 1:02 p.m.

    Port City with beaches. Probably played pick-up on the beach as well and maybe even organized beach soccer.  Baseball is the most popular sport in Venezuela - by far - but they somehow still create soccer talent.  Interesting for American's always using the excuse of soccer losing the atheltes to other sports.  On the other hand - almost all Venezuelans have an appreciation of soccer - even baseball players.  Can't say the same here.  Any how - best of luck to the kid.  We'll look for him when we visit Austin. 

  11. Glenn Alpert, January 22, 2021 at 5:28 p.m.

    You know Frank, I think we can agree that every player who made it to the highest level of the game has some form of pickup in their DNA.

    For boys, it usually happened in younger years before hitting 19, playing against much older players (adults or teens). For girls, it's usually playing with boys. I bet if we put every single professional player under a microscope, we will discover that they all had this component at some point in their soccer development.

    Nobody just shows up to practice every day on their standard "travel" team without doing anything extra in addition to that and becomes a professional player.

    Usually, the player gets involved in some soccer environment that is way over their head, and then they spend 24/7 trying to adapt and adjust to that level, combined with maybe a relative who is a coach or high level player themselves, OR they live and breathe soccer from a very young age. Don't know of too many other ways that top players get produced.

  12. frank schoon replied, January 22, 2021 at 5:47 p.m.

    Glenn, that every player playing at the highest have some form of "pickup" or street soccer for that what I use to call it but most Americans have never played or experienced street ball. I experienced in Amsterdam as a kid where at time there were few cars..

    Even though you say those at the highest level all have some Pickup experience in their DNA, it is not enough. For to me Pickup has to be the majority of time spend in one's development . And this is why US kids  as compared to European kids lack so much ball touch that you gain playing pickup. Our kids our to 'stiff' with the ball and they lack so much creativity due to lack of pickup.

  13. Glenn Alpert, January 22, 2021 at 5:32 p.m.

    in my last comment substitute "pickup" with "Street Soccer" or any informal, non-regulated soccer environment - where adults play with teenagers, and little kids play with much older players, etc.

  14. Glenn Alpert, January 22, 2021 at 5:58 p.m.

    Agree. You can't become a great artist by sitting in a classrom learning how to be an artist and being trained to become an artist. You can become a commercial artist, but not like a Picasso of your day 

  15. frank schoon replied, January 22, 2021 at 7:14 p.m.

    Glenn,  you'll enjoy this. He is of my generation that played street soccer 20-30 hrs. Week

    jan mulder-show(met twee ballen).    YouTube 

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