Age at MLS Cup: 24
Hometown: Salvador, Brazil
ALL COMPETITIONS IN 2020:
Artur joined the Crew on loan from Brazilian club Sao Paolo in 2017 and was permanently transferred to Columbus following his first season here. In 2020, he formed a perfect midfield partnership with Darlington Nagbe. Although not a goal-scorer by trade, his sublimely placed left-footed shot squeezed inside the goal post to lift the Crew to a 1-0 win over New England in the Eastern Conference Final, just six days before they won MLS Cup. Josh has a lot to say about Artur, so I’m just going to turn it over to him now.
THROUGH JOSH’S EYES
“I always joke with Arty that we found him in the Amazon as a naked boy and we coaxed him out of the forest with some mangos and then we built him up. But what a warrior. To me, he sets the tone for what we do as a defensive unit. He just hunts the ball. When I say that our team hunts the ball on defense, he’s the main person I am describing when I say that.
“Few players that I’ve played with close down space like he does. He has this ability to just sprint at people. If I do that, they just make a cut and go around me, but he sprints at people and somehow everybody panics. They take a misstep or a mis-dribble. And he’s like a Brazilian octopus. His legs are like these tentacles that come out, swoop up the ball, and then he’s off the other way. And you’re just sitting there wondering how he was able to sprint that whole time and the person just gave it to him. His ability to win tackles and come out clean, I swear he’s like an octopus. His legs can just bend certain ways. And then he just, like, scoops the ball up, sets it in front of him, and starts sprinting again. He’s such a crucial piece to our press as a defensive unit.
“As good as a defender as he is, I think he gets better and better with each game he plays, whether that’s springing someone by hitting a long ball or making the right decision, whether it’s one touch back to break a press or turning in the pocket. There was one moment in the very first playoff game against the New York Red Bulls where he kinda popped in the middle between Jona and I. I think either Jona or Eloy gave him the ball and there were like four guys on him. He started doing these little rolls on the ball and you can hear their players going, ‘What the hell?’, ‘Oh what the hell?’ and then he pops out. I remember thinking, ‘Oh we’re in trouble here’ and then he pops out. And I remember all of them turning and looking at each other like, ‘That was your fault.’ And it was like, ‘I thought YOU had him.’ All of them were kicking and I swear all of them could have fit in a telephone booth and somehow Arty just manipulates the ball through them. Then his little octopus legs just roll it out in front of him and he’s gone. You’re just standing there like, ‘What the hell was that? How did that even happen?’
“To me, he’s just one of the best in the league at destroying stuff on defense, and those are guys that are normally one-sided. They’re defensive specialists. They’re basically destroyers. They seek and destroy. But Arty can seek and destroy and then start a counter for us. Offensively, talk about someone who shows up for big games. Seems like every big game, that guy scores. I don’t know if he scored a goal the whole year in training, and then next thing I know he’s got like three in a year or something. I can think of that New York City playoff game in 2017. It’s like if we need a goal, the octopus legs will come out of nowhere and slap one in. The Eastern Conference Final against New England this year, he reverse-swerved it with his left foot. It was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll just make it swing back the other way.’ Only an octopus can get away with that.
“Here’s a fun fact. After he came here from Brazil, he learned English from Eminem songs. [Note: This is not a Josh joke. Artur told me this as we ate dinner before a Cleveland Indians game in 2017.] The better his English gets, the more his personality comes out. He married an American and they are speaking English at home, so I think he has really come out of his shell. You know me. I’m always joking. And before, I think I would say stuff and he wouldn’t know if I was joking or not. Eventually he found out that the American culture is very sarcastic. Or at least our locker room culture is very sarcastic. It’s guys constantly going at each other with banter. So as he figured that out, he’s become one of the funniest guys in the locker room. To me, whether it’s a swear word or just a certain banter, when it comes from his Brazilian accent I just think it is the funniest thing ever. He can take a normal phrase and just put a little twist on it. He’s always got a witty joke at just the right time. And he’s got some GIFs. We have a player thread that’s just the players and Julio, our team operations guy. Julio would send us updates on the schedule and stuff like that. When we were in the bubble (in Orlando), the days were dragging on, so whenever there was an update to the schedule, it would rile everybody up because we just wanted to sit in our room and relax. But then Arty would come up with these little memes. I don’t even know where he gets them from, but every single time, it was such a ridiculous meme that fit so well. And once you knew Arty, you understood. I would just be sitting there laughing like, ‘Where does this guy get this stuff from?’
“He’s another guy that’s always happy, on and off the field. He’s a warrior, so if guys aren’t playing well or training is lacking a bit, he’s got such tremendous intensity for the game. He wants to win at everything he does and to play at such a high level. I love that about him because I feel like that’s how I tick too. He’s a good friend and incredible teammate. I love having him around and he’s a big piece to our team.
“In MLS Cup, I remember him kinda getting beat up. He had a couple injuries and didn’t want to leave the game. The last one, he really rolled his ankle. The way he reacted, I knew he was in a lot of pain. He stayed down for a little bit and then just toughed it out. To me, that’s just him in a nutshell. He’s such a competitor. In the first couple minutes, he hurt his groin too. I saw him limping and asked if he was okay, and he said, ‘No, but I’ll play through it. I’ll be fine.’ I remember checking with him at halftime and he said it wasn’t any good but he would finish the game. With certain players, you hear that and you’re not necessarily sure about it. You know it might be a problem. But if Arty says he’s going to finish the game, you know you don’t have to worry about it again. He’s going to tough it out and give you everything he has. Those are the little moments that gave me so much confidence in what we were doing that day and what the outcome was going to be. When you are surrounded by guys that will give you everything they have to lift that trophy with you, you feel unbeatable in that moment.”
[NOTE: To see a clickable list of earlier installments of this Josh Williams series or other MLS Cup related posts, please click HERE.]
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