Justin and Pedro -- Men In The Middle

Justin Portillo and Pedro Ribeiro are ready to make their final marks on Coastal Carolina soccer


Nov. 10, 2013

Many folks point to Nov. 14, 2010 as the date of the resurgence for the Coastal Carolina men’s soccer program. On that date the Chanticleers upset heavily favored High Point in the Big South Championship game with Joe Anderson’s hat trick leading the way in the 3-1 victory.

That moment may have been the first exclamation point that Coastal Carolina soccer had returned to

Justin Portillo
Pedro Ribeiro

prominence after a few lackluster years, but the road to that moment began in early August 2010 on the first day of preseason training. Two current seniors stepped on the CCU Soccer Field as freshmen that August day and their careers have fed off one another ever since.

To most Chanticleer fans the two are referred to by their first names and usually in the same sentence.

Justin Portillo and Pedro Ribeiro are those two student-athletes and their careers are as intertwined as any dynamic duo in the sports world.

Portillo and Ribeiro are stark contrasts in terms of stature as the former is 5-foot-6 and slender, while the latter is 6-foot-3 and thick. However, both are exceptionally versatile midfielders that have a natural knack of locating the ball and making game-changing plays with it at their feet.

Portillo, a native of New Orleans, La., is the precision distributer who sees the field and can place the ball anywhere he desires. That ability has allowed head coach Shaun Docking, who ranks as CCU’s winningest coach, to run the high-powered Chanticleer attack through Portillo for the past three seasons.

Ribeiro, who hails from Belo Horizonte, Brazil, is the target for the Chants when he plays up top, but he can also be relied on to play a deeper role in the midfield to disrupt opposing team’s attacking options.

For full appreciation of the two, think about the play of John Stockton and Karl Malone of the 1990s Utah Jazz.

Together the duo has led the Chants to 65 wins in their careers, including an unprecedented 34 Big South Conference victories. In addition, the two have led Coastal back into the national spotlight as the Chants have received national rankings each of the past three seasons, including a program-high ranking of fifth this season.

Portillo has been the Chants’ rock in the midfield as he is tied for the Coastal Carolina career matches played lead with 86 and is second on the career starts list with 84. Additionally, his pinpoint accuracy has led to 29 assists, marking him fifth all-time in the CCU record book. He is a three-time All-Big South honoree and was named a NSCAA All-American Scholar last season.

“Justin has been our link man in midfield for four years,” said Docking.” Everything goes through and revolves around him. He has been a great leader for us and he will be missed in the coming years.”

Ribeiro, who owns 30 career goals, has earned the bulk of the individual awards, including All-American honors following his sophomore season of 2011 and Preseason All-American honors from numerous organizations this season. Additionally, Ribeiro has earned four National Team of the Week honors and a trio of Big South All-Conference awards.

“The way Pedro has progressed over his four years has been fantastic,” said Docking. “He has matured into being a leader and is truly one of the best players we have ever had come through our program. He is such a dominate force in college soccer and he too is really going to be missed.”

The pair not only looks for and relies on each other on the field – Portillo has assisted on seven of Ribeiro’s 20 career run-of-play goals – they have become inseparable off the field as well.

“Pedro is like my brother. Since we have been here, from the start we hit it off. We both play in the midfield, so that connection was instantaneous and we have become brothers over our time here at Coastal Carolina. I know where Pedro wants the ball and what his tendencies are and he knows the same about me,” said Portillo. “And that level of comfort with each other has helped us lead this team.”

Ribeiro echoed the sentiments expressed by his midfield mate.

“Justin has been a brother to me since day one,” said Ribeiro. “We are brothers on and off the field and it means a lot to me to be able to share my final college season with him. Since our freshman season I have treated him as my little brother. It has always been funny to see us on campus…especially since I am such a big guy and he is much smaller. Now that we live together we have been able to connect over aspects of life other than soccer.”

The impact of Portillo and Ribeiro is not lost on Docking who will surely have a difficult time filling the void in the midfield left by the duo’s departure.

“We are just so lucky to have Justin and Pedro two guys come through our program,” said Docking. “They are two big reasons that our program is to the level that it is today. They have really created a wonderful legacy as individual players. In their time here, the program has taken tremendous strides. We have had a number five national ranking and advanced to the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16. We are now consistently ranked in the top 25 and truly believe we can advance to the College Cup. These are all things that Justin and Pedro have created, not just been a part of, but created.

Both men agreed that their ultimate goal and ideal defining legacy would be to raise the NCAA National Championship trophy at PPL Park on Sunday, Dec. 15.

Heading into their final colligate postseason, the duo have already left their mark on Coastal Carolina soccer. The only question that remains is how bold will that mark be.