Go behind the scenes with Utica City FC as a part of our Summer With The City interview series! 

We spoke with Utica City FC 2023-24 MVP Nilton de Andrade— after a successful rookie season, de Andrade blossomed during his sophomore campaign totaling 26 goals and 15 assists.

For those who are just familiar with Nilton de Andrade through the stats sheets and awards, how would you characterize your game?

 Nilton: It's hard to describe my game in a few words— I guess I'm known for my dribbling, passing, and ability to score goals. But I also try to be a leader on and off the field and then help my teammates win games and help my teammates during practice. Even outside the field, if like something is wrong,  if they need my help, I'm always trying to be there.

My style of playing is about being unpredictable and creative. I like to use my speed and ability to get past defenders and create a scoring chance for myself and my teammates. I'm not afraid to take a risk and try new things on the field, I love taking those chances, pressuring a defender, and making things happen with the ball at my feet.

You were named as MVP this season— what do you attribute your performance to?

Nilton: It was a honor to be nominated as MVP. I think my performance this season was a result of hard work, dedication, and the support from my teammates and coaching staff. I'm always striving to improve my game and I'm grateful for the opportunity to play and this level and then grateful to play here in Utica alongside of all my teammates. 

I think a big part for my success this year was my focus and consistency, I work hard to stay fit and healthy and I was able to perform at a higher level through the season. I also benefitted from playing with a team that was very supportive. We all believe in each other and that made a big difference in our team and this year as a whole.

You had the opportunity to represent the United States at the international level with Franck Tayou and head coach Hewerton Moreira at the 2024 Concacaf Futsal Championship— talk about what it meant to you to wear the red, white, and blue.

Nilton: It's a pleasure to play on the national team. I believe it should be always a dream come true to every little kid. It was for me when I was a little kid, and it's like, "wow, today it's happening." I'm always going to take advantage of it and enjoy it.

If you add one player from around the league to the Utica City FC roster, who would it be and why?

Nilton: There's a lot of players around the league that I'd love to play with— for sure, I'd say Marcio Leite from Milwaukee. I would love to bring him to Utica, but it might be pretty hard to make happen. 

What was the biggest challenge you faced this season and how did you overcome it?

Nilton: One of the biggest challenges that I had this year was when I had to make the decision to leave the team in April. I had two choices: go play for the [U.S. Men's] national [Futsal] team or stay for the playoffs. 

It was a tough decision for me because after playing the whole season and just coming into to playoffs, I had to leave to go to national team duty. It stung that the playoffs didn't go our way, not at all like we expected. At the end of the day, I made the decision to go to the national team and represent the USA. The team understood and were ok with that, but I hope the fans understand. 

Another challenge too was towards the end of the season when I got hurt in a game against Baltimore at home. Since we were so close to playoffs, it wound up being really hard on me that I had to stay out for three games. It stung that the injury carried over to my time with the national team. 

You made it to the semifinals of this year’s TST event with Newtown Pride FC. Talk about that experience and being surrounded by so many quality MASL players.

Nilton: Going to TST, especially with Newtown as the defending champions, was a good experience. I'm already looking forward to going back next year! 

That was another dream come true, and especially playing the semifinal against Nani's team and especially against Nani himself and Ricardinho. Ricardinho was someone who Inspired me when I started playing futsal, especially for the national team. I watch a lot of videos of him to emulate how he plays, so it makes me learn and understand futsal a little bit more.

Growing up, I knew about Nani's family being from Cape Verde like me... to get the chance to play against him, it was like a dream come true and I was so happy that it happened. Playing alongside all those MASL players for Newtown— I know I don't get to play with them in the league and I got to play with them in TST. I really enjoyed playing with those guys and I hope we're gonna be able to see each other playing against each other soon. 

One of your best games of the season was at home vs. the Baltimore Blast on February 4th— your six points (four goals and two assists) were more than the Blast’s goals combined (five) that game. With that night being devoted to the memory of Ava Wood, what did it mean to have such an incredible performance?

Nilton: Regardless of the game, it doesn't matter against what team I'm playing against, I'm 100% focused. I'm always trying to be there for the team as much as I can and then get out of there with the win. It doesn't really matter to me if I score or get an assist, I just care about the win. 

That game was important to me because I know how important it is to Captain Nate Bourdeau. He's someone that I've looked up to since I got in the league last year. He was there for me and he helped me out. I always tell myself, he's one of the people like who helped me be this type of player that I am and he's the reason why I earned the MVP. Last year, he helped me a lot and really made me understand the game. Going into that game and knowing how close he was with Ava Wood, it made me excited. I told myself, "I'm gonna do whatever it takes so we can win this game." That first goal... it was especially for her and for Nate.

What does the fan support at the Adirondack Bank Center mean to you and the team?

Nilton: The fan support in Utica is unbelievable, #1 fans in the league for sure. I've never played in an arena with fans that loud or there every game like we have here— I really, really love all of it. I'm always saying thank you for always being there whether inside our outside of the arena.

What can fans expect in Season 3 in Utica from you?

Nilton: We're just gonna finish up where we left off. I know we came out short last year in the playoffs and my goal is to bring a championship to Utica. That's been my mentality since my first year in the league. That's something I'm gonna keep working on it with my team— I hope we're gonna be able to bring as soon as possible and then give happiness back to the Utica fans, the best fans in the league.

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