With the 24th pick of the 2020 MLS SuperDraft, LAFC selected Marshall goalkeeper Paulo Pita.
A native of Brazil, Pita's journey to LA has been unique. The goalkeeper arrived in the U.S. having initially played in Brazil. A national champion at the University of Charleston, Pita transferred to Marshall for his junior season. At Marshall, Pita continued to impress. The goalkeeper was a Player of the Week selection on three occasions and was named to the All-Conference USA Second Team.
After being selected by LAFC, Pita did a brief interview over the phone to get to know him better on and off the pitch. The following is our conversation:
What were your emotions when you find out LAFC had selected you?
It was crazy. I almost had a heart attack. I mean, you always dream to play at the next level but being picked by LAFC was higher than I ever thought because of how big LAFC is.
You have an interesting backstory having played in Brazil before coming to college in the U.S. How did that prepare you for your college career and the next level?
I learned a lot [playing in Brazil]. But definitely coming to college shaped me. I became better not only on the field but also as a leader for my teammates. I went to University of Charleston, which is a Division II school. And I knew if I wanted to play at the next level, I had to step up and play Division I. That’s when Marshall opened the door and I had the chance to play Division I. It helped me to understand how the system works in terms of soccer in America and it made me better as a player and person off the field as well.
What do you bring to the goalkeeper position? What is your mentality like on the pitch?
I feel like being a goalkeeper, you have to challenge yourself every single day. There’s no comfort zone at all. Every day you have to step on the field and think, “Today I have to give my best. Today I have to find something to challenge me.” Because you can play three or four games in a row and you won’t save one ball. And then, when you need to save one, you need to be there for your teammates. It’s the mental part because when the shot comes, I need to be ready for any situation. Sometimes I won’t save the ball using my hands but I need to be important in the game using my footwork or whatever you need to do.
What about away from the pitch? What kind of things do you enjoy doing on your off time?
When I’m off the pitch, I try to spend time with my family with my son and with my wife. I watch a lot of soccer. I’ve watched a lot of MLS. So, when I watch soccer, I try to watch the goalkeepers and see how they play at the next level. See how they get set and how they talk to their teammates. Those are a few things I try to do off the field to improve myself.
What about the city of Los Angeles excites you?
I grew up in city in Brazil called Santos. It’s a beach city. I grew up less than maybe three minutes from the ocean and from the beach. And it’s really warm as well. That’s something that I’ve missed the most. Being in West Virginia the past four years, there’s really cold weather sometimes. I feel like being in LA, going to the beach and having the warm weather again, that’s something that I’ve missed from back home.
What do you look forward to most at LAFC?
It’s funny because when LAFC played against the Galaxy in the playoffs last year, I was sitting at home watching the game with my best friend Pedro. And he was like, “Can you imagine playing that game with their fans in that situation? You know, that’s the dream and you can make it happen one day.” After LAFC picked me, he called me right away and said, “Can you believe it? Remember that day?” So, that is something I am really excited about. I want to be in front of those fans and do my best for them.