Reno 1868 FC Head Coach Ian Russell discusses recovery of midfielder Matheus Silva
The Fourth of July annually brings out the barbecues, fireworks and for the ill-prepared, sunburn.
This past Fourth of July almost brought out something else: Devastation.
Arriving at Lake Tahoe early in the morning on the nation’s birthday, Reno 1868 FC midfielder Matheus Silva, 20, was among teammates who wanted to get to the beach early to claim a prime spot for the fireworks show later that night. Not only were they celebrating the holiday, but a historic 9-0 win over Los Angeles the night before. The rout set a United Soccer League record for largest differential in a single match.
The upbeat feelings of the occasion quickly evaporated. Taking a swim into deeper waters, Silva, a Brazilian-born midfielder, fell behind. He yelled for help once. His teammates heard, but thought he was joking. When he yelled again, it was no longer humorous. He sunk into the depths.
A year and three weeks prior, Nevada football player Mark Ma drowned in the lake while paddle boarding nearly two miles off the shore with teammates.
Nearby paddleboarders dove into lake and managed to get Silva to shore, where he no longer had a pulse. A good samaritan, who remains unidentified, performed CPR for upwards of 15 minutes before paramedics arrived. They saved Silva’s life.
Silva was rushed to the hospital and remained in a coma for two days, before waking up responsive, yet unaware of the event that brought him there. Doctors found no brain damage, and the team is already discussing the potential of his return to the club later in the season.
He was dead. Now, he’s starting to think about playing soccer again.
Head coach Ian Russell came on my weekly radio show Friday afternoon on ESPN Radio 94.5 FM to discuss the team’s initial reaction to the news, as well as Silva’s progression.
Just what has kind of been the feeling around the team and how has that shifted since the good news (waking up from the coma) last week?
It was crazy. Because on July 3rd we have a game against the Galaxy, which we won 9-0, then I wake up to a phone call at 7 a.m. in the morning from one of our players talking about what had happened.
They had gone up there early in the morning to get a good seat for the fireworks and went out for a swim. The water is so cold, I think he cramped up and went underwater. They pulled him out and there were a lot of people that helped in saving his life. There were two paddle boarders that were able to dive in and get him and there was a guy on the beach that nobody knows who he is still that did CPR for like 15 minutes before the paramedics came.
They pulled him out of there and he had no pulse. He was basically drowned, dead. And they brought him back to life.
He was in a coma, he’s come out of the coma. And in the last three days he’s been really, really responsive. He’s good. He’s walking around. I think he’s going to get out of the hospital maybe today (Thursday) and we’re hoping that he can start jogging and stretching in the next couple weeks and looking to get him back on the field. But it’s just, it was really somber.
You go from a real high, to a real low. The fact that he’s alive and there was no damage, no brain damage, is pretty remarkable. It’s pretty awesome.
Yeah, the fact you’re talking running and stretching and maybe getting him back out there is miraculous considering where we were last Tuesday. Have you got to visit him at all? What’s his demeanor been like?
It’s been good. I went in there two days ago and he was a little upset, because he thought he was getting out of the hospital that day and he was like ‘man, I got upset with the doctors,’ and I just told him ‘you have to listen to your doctors, they’ve got your best interest at heart.’ He’s just so anxious to get out of the hospital and start rehabbing and getting strong again. He’s a really powerful person. He’s 20 years old, he’s 6-2, and just a ball of muscle. He’s just anxious to get going again.
So, when you first get the news on Tuesday, and this story is far less positive than it is now, I mean it’s just flat out scary, what is your message to the team? Because you have this horrifying incident, but you’re also in the middle of the season. So how did you balance that and what’d you tell the guys?
It was kind of a weird situation. Because we had a scheduled three-day break after the LA game. I wanted to give the guys some time off. I said ‘hey, be safe whatever you’re going to do.’ Then, obviously, that happens.
So, we have an app that we run through the San Jose Earthquakes and Reno. It’s an app that our General Manager (Andy Smith) has created, where we can all communicate on that.
There was a lot of communication going through that and guys were going to visit him. When we came back for training, I got all the guys together, I kind of gave the update, I said ‘this is where we are at. He’s getting better. I have no idea if he’s going to play again. We have no idea. But we have to go about our business. He’s going to recover. He’s a strong boy.’
And the guys were pretty positive. That could see every day he was getting a little better and that really helped the mood.
After our game against Atlas, I told the guys he was awake and he’s responsive. He’s doing really well and I think he’s getting out of there. Everybody was clapping.
The guys have been super supportive. As has the city, I mean the City of Reno and our supporters section. The (Battle Born) Brigade just, they’ve been awesome. They were chanting his name at the game, they had a banner for him.
The San Jose Earthquakes, the Bay Area, it’s been a pretty positive story how everyone has come together to support Matheus. Chris Wondolowski, who is the San Jose Earthquakes forward, wore his jersey the other night for the game and happened to score two goals for them. There’s just been a lot of really positive stuff from it.