“Gooooooal for Adriano Dos Santos!” Four-year old Benjamin Dos Santos sings and kicks the soccer ball, pretending to be his father, the Baltimore Blast defender and Brazilian native.
‘That’s the best part of my job,” Dos Santos admits. “My kids believe I’m a super hero. Benjamin’s eyes light up when the announcer calls my name. He thinks my teammates are cool. Both my boys love the games. It’s like I have magical powers.’’
Dos Santos is a second-generation futbolisto. Raised in Rio de Janeiro, Dos Santos’ father played soccer around the globe and was often away for long stretches. While Dos Santos missed his father, he knew he wanted to follow in his footsteps, and in 2008, he relocated to the U.S. to pursue a soccer dream.
At the Blast’s open tryout the following year, head coach Danny Kelly quickly identified Dos Santos as a talent the team wanted and offered him a professional contract. Since then, Dos Santos has made Dundalk his home. He’s an integral piece of the Blast’s success, and like his father before him, has built a life around soccer —a happy life that includes his two sons, Benjamin, 5, and Dominic, 3, and his wife Julie Bittner, a Dundalk native.
“The hardest part about playing soccer and juggling a family is the time away from home,” Dos Santos said. “I’ve missed birthday parties and other milestones.” He counts on his understanding and supportive wife to keep him in the loop. During the intense six-month, 22-game Blast season, he’s on the road, traveling around the U.S. and as far away as Mexico. At night, in the quiet of his hotel room, he’ll Facetime with Benjamin and Dominic. “Not being at home all the time — that’s the tradeoff. But I can’t see myself doing anything else. I am blessed to be able to support my family playing soccer.”
Still, Dos Santos is planning for the future — most soccer players retired by age 37 — and he supplements his income by assisting with the Blast soccer camps, running his own soccer camps and coaching U9 and U15 Teams for the Brazil USA Football Club (BUFC) in Towson. Helping kids learn the sport is a big component of what he enjoys off the field and something he would like to continue in years to come.
For now, preparing for the upcoming soccer season has been the biggest priority.
This year, the Blast’s home opener will be Friday, Nov. 10, against the Cedar Rapids Rampage at the team’s new home field, Towson University’s SECU Arena.
“We’ve just won two titles in a row, and we have a solid core of players coming back. We knew last season everyone would be coming for us . . . and that remains the challenge for us,” Coach Kelly says. “Adriano is the heart and soul of this team. With him in lineup, we have a chance to a championship.”
There will be two little boys in the stands who agree. They’ll be cheering for their favorite super hero — the guy they call Dad.