Nuno André Coelho says his first Major League Soccer game couldn't have gone better. The Portuguese center back made his debut with Sporting Kansas City in memorable fashion, securing the team's 1-0 victory over Seattle Sounders FC with a 73rd minute goal from 30 yards out. But there's more to Sporting KC's newest defender than meets the eye.
After all, moving to a new country and acclimating to a new team isn't a walk in the park, especially with a language barrier standing in your way. But Coelho hasn't let that stop him from working tirelessly to integrate himself into his new home, forging friendships with teammates and adapting to Sporting KC's unique style of play.
"I think he's acclimated himself really quickly," Sporting KC Manager Peter Vermes said. "He really didn't have much of a feeling out process. He just fit in right away. And the other thing is that he's out on the field every day. He doesn't miss anything. He's just got a really good habit for working and working hard."
The 6-foot-4 center back has spent the majority of his professional career playing for his home country of Portugal, where he made seven appearances in the UEFA Champions League with Portuguese clubs SC Braga and FC Porto. But during the 2014-2015 season, NCoelho played for Balikesirspor of the Turkish Super Lig — an experience that caught Vermes' attention.
"He has played outside of his home country," Vermes said. "That's important. A lot of times when you’re getting foreign players and they haven’t played outside their country, you have to be a little careful because sometimes they leave and it’s not for them and they don’t know what it’s like to play outside their country. So they’ve gotta have that mentality."
And Coelho is not afraid of change, even when moving to a country he had seen very little of prior to his signing with Sporting KC. As he walks out of training, he can be seen joking with Paulo Nagamura in Portuguese or conversing with Jordi Quintilla in Spanish. His teammates even lend a hand in interviews from time to time, translating Coelho's responses from Spanish to English for reporters and journalists.
"It’s a bit different, but I’m adapting," Nuno Coelho said. "I have been working for this, so it’s exciting to be on this team and to score a goal for this team in my first game."
And no matter where he is in the world, what's most important to the newest member of Sporting KC's back line is that he can continue to follow his passion for soccer.
"I’ve always loved soccer," he said. "My love for the sport grew in me as I played with friends and everyone else growing up. My passion just always grew with me."