COLUMBIA — Less than five months ago, Dylan Barduzzi was playing soccer about 5,400 miles away from Columbia in his birthplace of Florianopolis, Brazil.
On top of the insecurities of simply being a freshman, Barduzzi also faces the task of adapting to the cultural differences between Brazil and the United States, as well as overcoming the language barrier. He has not only succeeded in adjusting to life in the U.S., but he has surpassed his coaches' and teammates' expectations on the field as well.
Playing forward for the Cougars, Barduzzi has been a key player early this season, having scored the team's only three goals. He has connected late in the game, too, scoring the tying goal at Mid-Continent College and scoring both goals in the Cougars only win of the season against Berry College.
Teams around the league have noticed.
"I think they've realized that Dylan's a great soccer player," Columbia College coach John Klein said. "He played forward and scored three goals. Right away that got around the NAIA, and now teams are coming in and keying in on Dylan."
Klein said he notices the pressure of being the clutch player is on Barduzzi's shoulders.
"I have put pressure on myself for these games, but other guys need to as well. Soccer isn't a one-player game," Barduzzi said.
Barduzzi moved to the U.S. five months ago to join his mother in Baltimore. After living there for a couple months, he decided to pursue a soccer career and moved to Miami. There, Barduzzi played in a league for young players looking for scholarships. When he was offered a scholarship to play at Columbia College, he eagerly accepted it.
"I came here to live with my mom, but also because I think there is a lot of opportunity for soccer players here," Barduzzi said.
Living in Columbia for such a short time - only three weeks - the team is not the only thing that is new for Barduzzi. His native tongue is Portuguese, which makes communicating a bit more difficult.
"The guys are really helpful with my English. I understand most everything they say, but when I don't, they take the time to explain it to me," he said.
Barduzzi is taking an English class at Columbia College as well.
Columbia College is set to play Park University at 7 p.m. Saturday in Columbia. The Cougars are 1-3-1 on the season.
"This game is probably more difficult than the last two," said Klein about Saturday's game. "We've lost the last two, and certainly we're the underdogs."