For senior midfielder Sean de Silva, life has been defined by the sport that has allowed him to visit every continent, attend college and compete against the best talent the world has to offer.
But playing for your country in packed stadiums across the globe doesn’t mean success will always come easy. Sometimes it takes extra work and a bit of perspective.
A native of Port of Spain, Trinidad, de Silva came to the College of Charleston in 2008.
He had represented his country in international play since the age of 14, and chose the College because of a sense of familiarity – he already knew the coach, long-time CofC headman Ralph Lundy, and three future teammates, including former Charleston midfielder and current Puerto Rico Islanders professional Justin Fojo.
“When I came to school I already knew three other players,” said de Silva. “I knew it was an up-and-coming program. Charleston is by the sea, and the people were very nice.”
But like many freshmen, the transition to college life and American soccer wasn’t exactly seamless. His freshman year, de Silva started only eight games and netted but two goals – both in the same match against Davidson.
“It’s definitely completely different styles of plays,” said de Silva. “In international competition, Trinidad’s team is straight-up athletes. Here it’s more about tactics and teamwork. It was a big change at first as a freshman. I probably didn’t play as much as I would have liked.”
After his freshman year, de Silva departed the team in order to represent Trinidad in the 2009 U-20 FIFA World Cup. And thus began his transformation into a composed leader and a budding star on the pitch.
“I left for a year, went home and represented my country in the U-20 World Cup Qualifiers in Trinidad,” said de Silva. “I had a fantastic tourney. We went on to the U-20 World Cup in Egypt where I started in some big games. It was a fantastic experience playing in front of 80,000 people.”
With that formative international experience under his belt, a matured de Silva came back to the College playing at a higher level than ever before.
The results have been nothing short of stunning, as de Silva lit the Southern Conference on fire in his last two seasons.
“My freshman year was just adjusting to a different lifestyle and a different set of people. But when I came back after taking off a year, I was much more comfortable,” said de Silva.
That comfort stems from the perspective gained playing big matches in his last international experience.
“Playing against big countries in front of big crowds definitely helps with your nerves,” said de Silva. “The nerves playing for your country with an entire nation resting on your shoulders is so big.”
In 2010 he earned first-team all-conference honors while netting a team-high seven goals and dishing out nine assists. In 2011, he scored four goals with five assists en route to his second consecutive all-conference selection.
Building on his successes from the past two seasons, de Silva is looking forward to a great senior season and a draft selection. But those personal goals mean nothing unless the Cougars meet their team goals and improve on last year’s 5-8-5 campaign.
“The team can and should win the SoCon and definitely make a run in the NCAA tournament,” said de Silva. “If we don’t believe that and set that as our goal and settle for anything short, we’re cheating ourselves.”
That potential run to the NCAA tournament continues Sunday, Sept. 2 when the Cougars host Dayton in the conclusion to the NIKE / Aaron Olitsky Memorial Classic. The team is coming off a thrilling overtime win over national-powerhouse Stanford on Friday night and looks to build upon that momentum.
De Silva, as a senior, is leaning on his international experience and helping his team prepare for the big match.
“My biggest job this week was getting everyone to buy in and believe we can beat Stanford. That was the first step,” said de Silva. “Everyone is on the same page. Everyone believes that we can win.”
The Dayton match is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. at Patriots Point.