By Jordan Kroeger, SunCoast Sports

PORT CHARLOTTE — Noah Couto has been dribbling a soccer ball since he was two years old.

It’s been his life ever since, and the only sport he’s ever known.

For most of his life, his dream of playing professionally was just that — a dream.

But then his senior year at Port Charlotte began and he realized it was time to make his dream a reality.

“To be completely honest, as I’m getting older I’m realizing that the dream is becoming more and more realistic,” Couto said. “When I was younger, it was just a dream. As I’m getting older, I’ve started to realize what I’m going to do with my life and it made me work a lot harder this year than in previous years.”

His hard work translated into the best season in Charlotte County. Couto scored an area-best 20 goals and kicked out an area-best 18 assists, making him The Sun’s boys soccer player of the year.

Now Couto, who has interest from five schools, must decide if college soccer is his future or if the opportunity to play professionally in Portugal is the route to take. Defiance, Florida Southern, Catwaba, Lenoir-Rhyne and Berea have all have expressed desire to bring Couto to their campuses, but professional soccer club FC Porto out of the Primeira Liga in Portugal also has become a realistic option.

“I think my decision is to go to Portugal because I have the opportunity to play with FC Porto,” Couto said. “My grandpa has a friend, Joe Martin, who’s been interested in me for awhile. He’s just been waiting on me to kind of bring the talent out and I guess he really liked what I did this past season. He knows some people down there and I’m supposed to meet with Ronaldo’s manager soon and then hopefully go forward from there.”

Couto says he wouldn’t be where he is today without his father Paul and his grandfather Joe. And, of course, Port Charlotte coach Joe Roca.

Roca said this past season was a complete 180-degree turn for Couto, who finally came into his own. Couto’s concentration increased and so did his dedication to winning.

“He was a team player and that’s what basically made him good this year,” Roca said. “He passed the ball more than he passed it last year. He wasn’t greedy. If it was there, he’d score. If it wasn’t, he passed it. He worked really, really hard this year.”

As Couto became Port Charlotte’s offensive machine, other teams began to notice. Opponents would rough him up, tackle him to the ground and bruise him up to the point he could barely practice. But Couto never missed a workout, never complained and was never going to miss a game.

He was chasing down a dream, after all.

“I didn’t really have time to take off,” Couto said. “You’ve always got to be improving, especially in this day and age. Everybody is doing things they need to do in order to be better so if I was injured there was really no reason to sit if it wasn’t that bad.”

Roca recalls Couto coming to practice in pain. He could hardly forget.

“He’d show me his bruises and I told him to relax. I was just glad he came and participated,” Roca said. “His dream is what basically motivated him. He showed up to practices without a problem and his maturity was there.

“Even if he was hurt and we tried to take him off the field he’d say, ‘no coach you’re not taking me out. I’m OK.’”

Before Couto’s senior season began, Roca sat him down to deliver a message he’d hope would motivate the Pirate into a stellar season. Roca saw Couto’s potential, he just needed to find a way to tap into it.

He did.

“He told me to start cutting in on the defenders instead of taking them all the way down to the goal line and getting out on my right foot and just having some shots,” Couto said. “I feel like that’s one of the reasons I scored 20 goals.”

Now, 20 goals and 18 assists later, the dream once kicked around by a 2-year-old boy in his yard may no longer be just a dream.


Age: 18
Parents: Paul and Lynn Couto
Siblings: Jacoby and Savanah
Favorite subject: science
Pregame meal: Subway
Possible major in college: Business


F: Rueben Bohdanets
North Port • Senior
Was the Bobcats offensive leader, with 17 goals and nine assists.

F: Blake Dean
Lemon Bay • Junior
Did it all for the Manta Rays, leading the team with 17 goals and 10 assists.

F: Michael Modlasia
Charlotte • Junior
Scored seven goals and added five assists to lead the Tarpons in both categories.

MF: Jeremiah Ruth
Port Charlotte • Senior
Nobody controlled the midfield better in the area than Ruth. The Pirate scored 13 goals and had 10 assists.

MF: Nate Ruth
Port Charlotte • Junior
When Ruth wasn’t playing tenacious defense in the back end, he was going forward to score goals on the other. He hit the back of the net 11 times and also had two assists.

MF: Jeremiah Simontchik
North Port • Senior
Was second on the team with 11 goals to go along with four assists.

MF/DEF: Javier Amaya
North Port • Senior
North Port’s defensive MVP had three assists.

DEF: Max Minucci
Lemon Bay • Senior
It was a tough season for the Manta Rays, but Minucci gave it his all as the team’s top defender.

DEF: Joel Requena
Port Charlotte • Senior
Was the key cog on Port Charlotte’s defense, which gave up the fewest goals in the area. He also scored seven goals and had an assist.

GK: Hunter Cole
Port Charlotte • Sophomore
Had an area-best 175 saves and posted six shutouts.


Charlotte: Donal Rateau (F/MF), Aaron Rivers (F/MF)
Lemon Bay: Shane Garner (GK)
North Port: Camilo Arango (F/MF), Arthur Bohdanets (MF/F), Graham Youngblood (D/MF)
Port Charlotte: Tariq Chase (D), Hunter Wilder (F), Michael Balseca (F/MF), Michael Gonzalez (MF), Josh Reyes (MF/D)

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