2020 might have been the worst year for a club to have its debut season. With all the complications and changes due to COVID-19, this was all but a normal season. Still, Revolution II and Nicolas Firmino made the best of it.
This was the Revolution’s second team’s debut season in USL League One. Revs II finished in ninth place with a record of 5-8-3.
One of the benefits of Revs II was the ability for younger first-team players who aren’t in Bruce Arena’s current plans to get some meaningful minutes. Isaac Angking, Damien Rivera, Justin Rennicks, and Firmino were some of the more noteworthy players to spend time with the club.
The rest of the roster was filled with young players gaining their first taste of professional soccer. Revs II would rely on the first-teamers for production and to be major contributors on and off the field. Firmino appeared to be up for the challenge.
Revolution II Head Coach Clint Peay detailed just what he was expecting from Firmino heading into the 2020 season.
He said, “We expected Nick to provide some on the field leadership whether that be by the way he plays or vocally. We obviously expected him to be a starter, a guy who would help the rest of the guys on the field based on his experiences as a first team player, and we expected some sort of production from him whether that be assists or goals.”
It’s fair to say that Peay got exactly what he wanted from Firmino. He was one of the best producers on the team, grabbing four goals and two assists in 16 games. That was enough to win the Golden Boot for Revs II.
That wasn’t all for Firmino. He was nominated for USL League One’s Young Player of the Year award and is still in contention for Goal of the Year. Especially with all that comes with playing in a club’s debut season, fans should be rather impressed with Firmino’s performance.
But even though Firmino is happy to get recognized for his hard work, he admits it’s not really something that he focuses on.
He said, “I’m very thankful to be recognized. It’s just a testament to the hard work that I put in all season, to my coaches and teammates for trusting and believing in me. It’s always good to be in the running for an individual award, but that’s not really something that I really focus on during the season. I just play the game.”
And playing the game is something that he’s quite good at. If you want proof, take a look at the his goal against Fort Lauderdale CF from Oct. 9.
Firmino stood over the ball just before the end of the first half. What happened next was nothing short of beautiful. The Brazilian native launched a free kick towards goal from 25 yards out and was able to give Revs II the lead.
Firmino. @Nick_F_28's free kick claims Goal of the Week for Week 13. pic.twitter.com/jcbGHWbMZ4— USL League One (@USLLeagueOne) October 15, 2020
Peay mentioned that Firmino’s free kick ability is just one of many skills that makes him a quality goal scorer. “He is a guy that is tireless with his running so he’s always in good positions to be on the end of plays to score,” said Peay.
“Last I think he’s got the composure, for the most part, in those areas of the field where he can kind of slow the game down and be able to pick out his spots to find the back of the net.”
But also off the field, the midfielder stepped up. When it comes to the part of Firmino’s game that improved the most in 2020, Firmino was quick to mention his leadership skills.
Firmino said, “When I’m on the first team, being a young guy you don’t really lead. But even being young on the second team, I feel like it came with a lot of responsibility to try and lead these guys and try to be a good example. Because like I said a lot of the guys on the second team want to be on the first team and I feel like it’s my job and the other first team guys to set a good example for them. How we should act. How we should approach the game, training sessions and stuff like that.”
The best example of Firmino’s leadership in 2020 was how he was able to help teammate Maciel transition from Brazil to the United States. Maciel signed his first professional soccer contract in January after being a member of Botafogo F.R. Academy since the age of 10.
The 19-year-old was able to help out Maciel seeing that he was also born in Brazil. Even though the two grew up over 400 miles apart from one another, you would have thought they grew up in the same neighborhood with the connection that they had. Coach Peay noticed that Firmino instantly took to Maciel.
Firmino would help translate for Maciel, but more importantly helped him get used to his teammates and his new surroundings. Peay talked about how helpful Firmino was.
He said, “I think Maciel was a guy who without Nick could have had a more challenging time just feeling more comfortable.”
Peay stated that he expects Firmino will continue to get minutes with Revs II next season and hopes to see an even better Firmino if he can make some improvements to his game before the 2021 season.
“I think there’s little details in his game of taking a little less touches on the ball, his body shape when he receives the ball,” said Peay. “Little things that will help him become a more efficient player. He’s able to get out of a lot of stuff because he is clever and crafty when he has the ball at his feet but I would like to see him become a little bit less reliant on those abilities all the time.”
Even though Peay believes that Firmino will be back with Revs II next season, Nick still has his eyes set on the first team.
He said, “Obviously the goal for everyone is to get consistent first team minutes, but that’s obviously something that I can’t control. That’s up to the staff. I’m just trying to work as hard as I possibly can this offseason. Get better and go into preseason and do well, but whatever happens, happens. Obviously the goal for everyone is to get first team minutes.”
Firmino seems to have the right attitude and mentality for an up and coming player. Seeing that he is only 19 years old he still has a long career ahead of him. If Firmino continues to be successful in League One play he will be on the first team roster in no time.