Marcelo Moreira: “I’m grateful because this country has given me my family, a new opportunity for me in my career. I’m happy because I know I can be here for my life, take care of my kids, my wife. (Photo courtesy of Marcelo Moreira)

While the national anthem is played before indoor soccer games, Brazilian-born Marcelo Moreira would show his respect, standing at attention with his teammates and his hands clasped behind his back.

The next time he has the opportunity to listen to “The Star-Spangled Banner” in front of an American flag prior to a game, the Rochester Lancers assistant coach and goalkeeper will take a different posture.

“Now, I will put my hand on my heart,” he said.

That’s because Moreira became an American citizen on Friday, Nov. 20 during swearing-in ceremonies in Buffalo.

“That’s what I want to do, next game, even if I’m not playing,” he said. “I just want to put my hand on my heart, my chest and be proud. I always prayed when they played the National anthem to say thank you to be here at this moment for my family, to help in this game, for nobody to get injured – us or our opponents. Back in Brazil I always did that. Now, I can put my hands on my chest, sing and be proud.”

Taking the oath was a big deal for Moreira, although ceremonies had to be changed because of COVID-19 protocols. Six or seven people were sworn in together – every individual was six feet apart – instead of a larger group.

Still, that did not dent Moreira’s enthusiasm.

“I’m so happy, happy and grateful,” he said. “Those are two words that describe my feelings right now. I’m grateful because this country has given me my family, a new opportunity for me in my career. I’m happy because I know I can be here for my life, take care of my kids, my wife. When I came here, I just wanted to work, do my thing, play. I feel like I’m complete. Now I can say I’m an American citizen.

“It’s a dream come true.”

On Thursday, he will spend his first Thanksgiving with his wife Kayla, the Lancers director of operations and CFO, and his children, Jilliana (3-years-old) and Thiago (7 months).

“This is a dream come true for our family,” Kayla said. “In a time where there is so much uncertainty this brings peace to our hearts and our life. Marcelo is the definition of exactly who we as Americans should want to become an American citizen, God-fearing, loyal, ambitious, hard-working, trustworthy and so much more. I am so proud of him and all he has accomplished thus far, and I cannot wait to see what the future holds because I know his future will be bright.”

Moreira, 46, has enjoyed a long career, indoors and outdoors. He has played for Palmeiras, Londrina, Club Atletico Juventus and A.D. Sao Caetano in his native Brazil and the St. Louis Ambush, Utica City, Syracuse and Rochester in the USA.

He journeyed to the United States to play soccer with the Syracuse Silver Knights in 2013. He just wanted to play soccer, not realizing at the time he would make this country his permanent home.

When injuries hit the Lancers during the 2019-20 Major Arena Soccer League season, Moreira suited up to help out the depleted goalkeeping corps. He played in five matches, backstopping the team to its lone win of the season while registering a 10.76 goals-against average.

After 26 years as a professional goalkeeper, the 6-1, 175-lb. Moreira is ready to hang up his competitive gloves for good.

He might have one more opportunity to play. The team is considering having him perform one last time for the Lancers and then retiring after that MASL game.

“I don’t want to play anymore because my body is not the same,” he said.

That is understandable.

“We have a new generation,” Moreira added.

That meant Moreira will guide Lancers goalkeepers. During the offseason they signed veteran indoor keeper Matt Perrella, joining returnees Brian Wilkin and John Ciavaglia.

“I want to be with them and help them anyway possible,” Moreira said. “We have to move forward, be an assistant coach, help them, listen to them and trade ideas.”

Teaching the game isn’t anything new to Moreira because he has coached youth soccer goalkeepers for several years.

He is the director of goalkeeping for the WNY Flash Youth Academy and also runs a soccer training company called More Keepers. He also has spent several years as an assistant/goalkeeper coach for Monroe Community College men’s program and the Nazareth College mens program.

The MASL hasn’t announced when the 2020-21 season will begin. Moreira would love to see it kick off in January, but anytime would be fine with him. The Lancers could take bus trips to several Eastern Division opponents, including Utica and Baltimore Blast.

“From what I heard, we are trying to do everything simple, follow all the protocols and avoid all those long trips because safety first,” he said. “We want to do something to keep the fans excited to see those new players, see those Lancers players again in action.

“If we have a season, it would be a great thing. It’s tough days, tough year. Let’s hope for the best.”

And that would give Moreira an opportunity to put his right hand over his heart during the national anthem to further celebrate him becoming an American citizen.