BRIAN SCIARETTA - Saturday, June 23, 2012
With the European transfer window now open, American goalkeeper Caleb Patterson-Sewell has found a new club by signing a new two year deal with Vitoria Setubal in Portugal's Primeira Liga.
Patterson-Sewell, 25, is coming off a very solid season with Atletico CP in Portugal's second tier, the Liga de Honra. In the 2011/12 season, Atletico finished in 11th place but Patterson-Sewell was considered one of the team's best players.
At the end of the season, Patterson-Sewell had a decision to make about his future and in the end he opted to sign with Vitoria Setubal who finished in 11th place in Portugal's top league.
"Vitoria Setubal had interested all season long," Patterson-Sewell told YA. "Then they hired Jose Mota who had been the coach at Belenenses. He liked me so the interest continues. But I had a decision to make because there was also interest from other clubs in the top league in Portugal along with other clubs outside of Portugal."
The key factor in the decision to sign with Setubal was in fact Mota who made a good impression on Patterson-Sewell when they met to discuss signing a new deal.
Vitoria Setubal is a historic club founded in 1910 and has won the Portuguese Cup three times. They are still seeking their first league title. In addition to Mota, the club's history was another important factor for Patterson-Sewell.
"Once I met with Mota, I knew it was the place I wanted to go," Patterson-Sewell explained. "It was still close to Lisbon and I'm settled there. Setubal has a rich history of goalkeepers who have gone onto do a lot of good things. I know the fans are very passionate and are some of the best fans in Portugal. [Mota] told me he saw a bright future. So for me it seemed like the right opportunity and I took it."
Vitoria Setubal currently has two other goalkeepers on its roster in addition to Patterson-Sewell. The top choice last season was 33 year old Brazilian Diego who has been linked to potential transfers this summer. The other goalkeeper is former Portuguese international Ricardo who has struggled for playing time since signing for Setubal in August.
While there is competition, Patterson-Sewell is heading to Setubal with the intention of being the team's top goalkeeper.
"My idea going in is to play and my thinking is to go there and be the number one keeper," Patterson-Sewell said bluntly. "When you go to a certain level of football, you're going to have to fight for your spot. Once you get to a big club, you're never going to have a coach tell you that you're going to play no matter what. I'll give it my best shot."
Playing in Portugal's top division will be a big step up for Patterson-Sewell who has yet to play in a top division in any country.
During the 2005-06 season he played with clubs in Australia's Brisbane Premier League. From 2007-11 he played in the United States with the Carolina Railhawks and Miami FC. He had brief stints with the New York Red Bulls but did not play in a game.
In Portugal he advanced his career by immediately becoming Atletico starting keeper but at Vitoria it will be at a whole new level.
"Every player wants to play at the highest level and the Portuguese league is a massive league," Patterson-Sewell said. "Going up is going to be another level to adapt to. I'll have to adapt quickly but this year put me in the right direction. I think I was the only goalkeeper who played every game. I've done the preparation work."
"I like to play in big games and I like challenges," he added. "I think that is what next year will be all about."
Patterson-Sewell's progress has also brought about questions regarding his international future. He was born in Tennessee and is the son of an American father and an Australian mother. He moved to Australia when he was two but returned in 2007 to pursue his professional soccer career. As a result, he holds citizenship with both Australian and the United States.
While he was succeeding at Atletico last season, Patterson-Sewell was made aware that he was being watched by representatives for both the Australian and the United States national teams. In fact, this fall Australian scouts will be in Portugal to watch him.
Patterson-Sewell knows that to break into the United States national team it will be difficult but he is confident that if he plays well for Setubal to begin the season, he can make a good case.
"For the national team of the US, I think it is still early since I haven't played a game yet in the first league," Patterson-Sewell said. "If I can get a good run of games, hopefully that will put me in good standing. My agent has spoken with Claudio a few times and told me I am on their radar. It would be an honor and privilege to play for the States."
Despite the fond feelings in playing for the United States, Patterson-Sewell admits that it would be a tough choice if both the US and Australian teems called at the same time. He has spent significant time and has family in each country.
Like many dual nationals who are conflicted, Patterson-Sewell feels that the country who calls first will likely decide which country he plays for.
"It would be difficult," Patterson-Sewell concluded. "I've done a lot of football in the States, my brother lives there, and my mother works there. My family's home is in Australia. It's tough. I'm split. But whoever calls first is likely going to make my mind up for me. They're both good teams with good setups. It would be a great opportunity either way."