Yuri Domiciano’s childhood home in Belo Horizonte, Brazil had a flat back yard and was slightly curved shaped like the letter C. Concrete stairs to the kitchen cut through the middle. Patches of grass were visible but most of the surface was littered with soccer balls.
“I was always involved with soccer, since I was young,” Domiciano said. “I was only playing soccer or soccer video games.”
The awake hours weren’t enough. Domiciano even slept with a soccer ball as a kid rotating among the dozens he owned. He occasionally required a stern reminder from his mother that soccer was an outdoor sport. Plates, lamps, and other furniture paid the ultimate price for his soccer passion creeping inside.
“It was bad,” he said with a laugh. “She would put me in the lobby and yell at me a lot.”
Domiciano played soccer constantly trying to navigate the cutthroat world of soccer development in Brazil. High-priced handlers and agents are often required to get placed on select teams.
On his 18th birthday he was invited to play in a game. Afterwards an American coach talked to him about opportunities in the U.S. The only problem is that Domiciano didn’t speak word of English and had no idea what the coach was saying.
Fortunately, he connected with an intermediary who helped guide him through the process. He needed to take the English-language TOEFL exam to gain entrance to an American university. He started studying in early April and took the test at the end of June. It’s an expensive and exhausting endeavor.
“I never imagined I would come to the U.S. at anytime,” Domiciano said.
He ended up at Iowa Western Community College in Council Bluffs, Iowa (population around 60,000) is a slightly different environment than Belo Horizonte, Brazil (population around 5 million). He brought a small jacket with him, which didn’t offer much protection from the harsh Iowa weather.
“I had no clue what Iowa was about,” Domiciano said. “I saw snow for the first time. I had to change and adapt a lot.”
He had to acclimatize to not just winter but speaking English all the time. The culture, food, and even style of soccer was different for him. Domiciano notes American soccer is built around fitness, pace, and strength, compared to the creativity and fluidity of his native country. He doesn’t think one style is superior, but they are distinct.
Domiciano thrived at Iowa Western winning a national title in 2014 and the team placed third the year after. He earned All American honors which flooded him with Division 1 offers. Domiciano has spent time at the University of Illinois-Chicago and the University of New Mexico. A knee injury and a protracted recovery interrupted his college career. But he will graduate from UIC in December with a Business Management degree and an International Business Minor.
“Since I was young, being a soccer player is the only thing I wanted to do with my life,” Domiciano said. “After I graduate I am still going to pursue my dream because it is what I always to do.”
This summer is his second in Albuquerque, having played for the Sol in 2015.
“Coach Matt [Gordon] asked me to come back and I’m very grateful for that,” he said. “I feel very comfortable here with the Sol, the atmosphere is great here.”
In the first match of the 2017 regular season Domiciano was brutalized by an ugly two-footed challenge from an FC Tucson player just before halftime. He hobbled to the locker room as even a few FC Tucson guys came to check on him. They didn’t know it would take more than that to keep Domiciano off a soccer field. He returned to start the second half.