When New Jersey Copa FC’s Raphael Araujo moved to the United States from Brazil when he was 13, the striker immediately experienced a soccer culture shock.
“As a Brazilian, soccer is part of our blood,” Araujo said. “I was used to playing pick-up soccer or street soccer every day and you just didn’t see that here.”
Along with the culture shock, Araujo had to adjust to cold New Jersey winters, meaning he would have to find ways to play soccer indoors. Luckily for Araujo, he grew up playing futsal, and currently plays on New Jersey Copa FC’s professional futsal side. While the bigger field in the outdoor game was a challenge to take on at first, Araujo incorporates his futsal skills when he takes the pitch.
“I was very successful in taking players on, thinking fast…that really helped me,” Araujo said on how futsal helped his outdoor game. “It’s like two completely different games…it’s not easy transitioning from indoor to outdoor.”
Once he got to America however, Araujo made the switch and eventually played outdoor soccer for Rutgers-Newark, where he received two All-America honors in his two years with the Scarlet Raiders. Over his final two collegiate seasons, Araujo scored 46 goals, good for the most in school history, and also set the record for goals in a single season with 27.
Araujo also reached a milestone in being the first men’s soccer player to receive first team All-America honors. Following his time in college, Araujo began his coaching career with the New York Red Bulls youth system.
From his time with NYRB, Araujo joined New Jersey Copa FC, where Araujo became a coach, a member of their professional futsal side, and the New Jersey Copa FC NPSL side. This was an experience Araujo credits with a great deal of his development.
“The NPSL is a very great league with high quality players and a high level of soccer. It’s great to play at a high level again because it forces me to work my hardest.”
And so far, his hard work has paid off. Araujo has been named a team captain for NJCFC and has started 2017 on a solid pace, scoring his first two goals of his NPSL career in his first four games of the NPSL season. For NJCFC however, Araujo’s impact is felt far beyond the points he puts up on the scoreboard.
“Rapha has been a tremendous influence on the success of our team from its inception,” added New Jersey Copa FC Head Coach Roberto Aguas. “His work ethic on and off the field is not only contagious but a great reflection of his leadership as a captain.”
For Araujo, the responsibility of wearing the armband is a welcome one.
“It’s definitely something that comes naturally,” Araujo continued. “I’m more of a leader by example, I go to practice and I give 100 percent of my effort and on game day it’s the same thing, I’m going to try to win no matter what.”
And Araujo has won. Despite a largely new and young squad, New Jersey Copa FC finds themselves with an impressive 5-1-1 record. For Araujo, the team showed the “power of hard work” when NJCFC recorded a win and a clean sheet against 2016 conference champions Clarkstown SC Eagles in 1-0 fashion.
Araujo credit’s the team’s mindset for their success so far.
“We are still building chemistry, but from the beginning we have been on the same page to leave everything on the field, and that’s how we are getting these results.”
While the recent run of play is impressive, Araujo will define this season and his whole career on winning a championship.
“The goal for the team, is to make the playoffs again and make another run. Soccer is a team sport so it doesn’t matter how great one player can be, he’s only as good as his team, so my goal is to win as many championships as I can.”
With Araujo’s passion for the game and leadership qualities, Copa FC has a strong foundation for a championship run.