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Orange County SC sign Cape Verde international Wuilito Fernandes

Mature rookie bolsters striker corps.

MLS: Combine
Fernandes (L) at the 2017 MLS Combine.
Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Orange County SC announced the addition of a new signing, forward Wuilito Fernandes. The player comes with an interesting backstory, and made his debut for OCSC off the bench on Saturday in their 2-1 win over Portland Timbers 2.

Fernandes joins Orange County as a rookie, after a college career at UMass-Lowell. However, he’s an unusual rookie in that he’s 27 years old. After going to the MLS Combine in January and being drafted in the third round by FC Dallas, he was not signed to a contract by the club.

He immigrated to the United States as a young man from Cape Verde, first trialling with the New York Red Bulls in 2010 (where his nickname was apparently “Totti”) but he did not earn a contract. He enrolled at UMass in 2013, and last year was named America East Conference Striker of the Year and NSCAA First-Team All-American.

Adding to all of this, Fernandes has recently gotten a call-up to Cape Verde’s national team, reportedly making his debut last month in a friendly against Luxembourg. So it’s a pretty busy time for the striker.

At the moment, it appears Fernandes will be a bench option for Orange County, possibly rotated into the starting lineup when the games come thick and fast. There’s no question having a 27-year-old rookie is unusual in soccer, but given his experience and the level of play in USL, don’t be surprised if the flyer Orange County are taking here pays off.

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