“My family was very, very happy,” Fernando said Wednesday. “They cried. I’m really happy.”
Now, Fernando is focused on making an impact with a team that has won three trophies in the past year.
“I’m really working hard,” he said in his first interview with local media Wednesday. “I’m going to do my best to try to help this club. Every day I’m coming here to do my best and play for the first team.”
The Brazilian signed with Atlanta United 2, the club’s USL Championship affiliate, Nov. 19, after playing three seasons with the Richmond Kickers. Fernando made 16 starts in 21 appearances for the 2s, contributing one goal and two assists and creating the second-most chances before signing with the first team.
Fernando came up in the Corinthians academy. An attack-minded player typically deployed on the left side, he has lined up as a wingback in recent weeks for the 2s and during training. Fernando says he tries to model his game after another Brazilian.
“My idol is Neymar,” he told reporters. “I like to dribble. I like to do step-overs and play happy.”
Asked to compare Fernando to a player closer to home, Jeff Larentowicz likened the 22-year-old’s juxtaposition of skill and position to that of Justin Meram.
“Playing on the left side, likes one-v-one situations, is the kind of player that takes the first touch forward,” Larentowicz said. “Justin does really well with that so he’s putting the other team on their heels. The other night for the 2s, Fernando played left wingback. With us he’s been playing a little wingback, but having at attacking player there that drives the team forward. I think he likes one-v-one situations. It’s an additional defensive player in the attack, that’s what he’s looked like to me so far.”
Defending from a forward position is not unnatural for Fernando. Playing with the youth teams of Corinthians, one of the biggest clubs in Brazil, it was a requirement. “You had to work really hard to help to defend, to help the team,” he said.
Signing players who are just as good in the locker room as they are on the field is a major tenant of the Atlanta ethos. Fernando seems to fit the bill.
“The players like me,” he said. “I don’t know why, but they like me. They always come and talk to me and teach me new things. I’m learning and I’m going to get better and hopefully soon I can play.”
His locker is next door to Julian Gressel, who praised Fernando’s humble attitude.
“He’s quiet, he’s pretty quiet,” Gressel said. “He comes in, says hello, does his thing and gets ready for training, which I think is pretty good as a young guy. You don’t always have to be the hot shot coming into the locker room like this, especially mid-season. He seems like a down-to-earth guy that’s hard-working and has all the things he needs to be successful. How far he takes it is up to him.”
Gressel says Fernando still has room to improve tactically and understanding the game, but the player is eager to learn. He dreams of playing in the English Premier League because he feels its physicality suits his style. He said Liverpool, in particular, would be a good fit. Whether that goal comes to fruition, Fernando’s view of the game puts him in the right position to grow with a team known for its intensity.
“My style is to press hard and aggressive and very intense,” he said. “I like that style.”