Florida International U

This duo — teammates for more than half their lives — lead nationally-ranked FIU soccer

FIU goalkeeper Daniel Gagliardi (1) plays against James Madison University. FIU won the match 3-1 on Aug. 31.
FIU goalkeeper Daniel Gagliardi (1) plays against James Madison University. FIU won the match 3-1 on Aug. 31. FIU

Soccer as a melting pot of cultures is perfectly exemplified by two FIU teammates — goalie Daniel Gagliardi and midfielder Andrew Booth.

The two fifth-year seniors have helped the Panthers get off to a 5-0-2, 2-0 start, putting FIU at No. 22 in the United Soccer Coaches Top-25 poll.

Gagliardi, who is of Brazilian ancestry, and Booth, who is Jamaican, have known each other since they were 10, playing soccer for the Plantation Football Club and remaining teammates there all the way until their senior years of high school.

As seniors, they decided to play academy soccer for Kendall. Then they started their FIU careers in 2015, redshirting as freshmen before gradually moving up the ranks.

Along the way, they have been to each other’s homes for meals, mixing and matching Jamaican and Brazilian food.

“Our friendship has grown so much,” said Gagliardi, 22. “He’s one of my closest friends. When I wasn’t playing, he was always there to support me.”

As a redshirt freshman, Gagliardi backed up Arthur Clapot, starting six games. Gagliardi then backed up Hugo Fauroux the past two seasons, starting one game as a sophomore and five as a junior.

Gagliardi said there’s an unofficial “goalkeepers union” in that players at his position support each other.

“Goalie is a perfectionist position — you can’t make a mistake,” said Gagliardi, knowing that errors wind up in the back of the net. “Only one goalie can play in a game for the most part, and experience plays a big role.

“So, when it wasn’t my turn, I did everything I could to support the starter and make him better. Eventually, I knew that when my turn came, I would be ready.”

This year, Gagliardi has started all seven FIU games and is undefeated so far, allowing just eight goals.

“I’m really happy for Daniel,” Booth said. “He had it rough [the past four years], but he never gave up. He never had a bad attitude.”

Booth had his own slow build up, starting six games as a redshirt freshman and seven as a sophomore. Last year, he broke out with 17 starts, leading the team in assists (four) while adding two goals.

“My sophomore and junior years, I played a lot of different positions,” said Booth, 22. “I was a utility guy, just happy to be playing.”

This season, Booth already has two goals and three assists. In past years, the Panthers relied on stars such as Santiago Patino and Paul Marie — both MLS first-round picks.

Now, though, Booth — like Gagliardi — is a focal point on the team.

“It’s special,” Booth said. “Daniel and I have gone through this journey together.”

Booth, who is majoring in psychology and minoring in economics, will graduate in December. Eventually, he wants to work with athletes, either as a coach or as a sports psychologist.

Gagliardi graduated last May with a degree in sports and fitness studies. He is now working on a Master’s degree in kinesiology.

This and that

FIU’s football team (1-3, 0-2) has a bye week before playing host to Massachusetts on Oct. 5.

The bye week could help as middle linebacker Sage Lewis went down in Saturday’s loss to Louisiana Tech with a left-hamstring injury. In addition, defensive linemen Andrew Tarver and Jason Mercier were also injured, although there is no word on the severity.

Positives from the loss include career highs for James Morgan (394 passing yards); Austin Maloney (113 receiving yards); and Tony Gaiter (87 receiving yards).