When the Iowa Western men’s soccer team claimed its first and only national championship, three young future Reivers happened to be following along in their own way.
It was Nov. 22, 2013, and while the Reivers were battling their way to a dramatic finish in Tyler, Texas, Gustavo Fernandes was nervously watching a stream of the game online with his family at his home in New York.
In Salt Lake City, Mason Farnsworth was getting frantic text updates from his mom while he was in class at the Academy for Math, Engineering and Science.
And a kid from Portland, Maine, named Henry Melville was at Tyler’s Pat Hartley Soccer Complex, watching from the stands with his dad and brothers.
Though they were total strangers at the time, they had one significant thing in common: Their older brothers were on the team.
Nick Melville delivered the game-winning goal that put the Reivers in the final match, Kaique Fernandes was a starting defender and Jarom Farnsworth had a big role coming off the bench.
The match itself ended up being a classic. The Reivers came back and tied it at one goal apiece in the 64th minute and eventually took down Tyler in a 3-1 penalty kick shootout.
As the Farnsworth family took to social media to spread the news, Henry Melville watched the celebration go on and on in the pouring rain. And a couple of hours later, Gustavo and his family called Kaique to ask how it felt to be a national champion.
“He’s, like, ‘Yo, I can’t believe it. I worked so hard for this, everything in my life paid off, all the hard work.’” Gustavo said. “We said, ‘Where are you?’ And he goes, ‘I’m still at the field. I can’t get over this feeling.’”
Four years later, it’s safe to say that shared memory left an impression on their younger brothers. Now, Gustavo, Mason and Henry are all in Council Bluffs, trying to follow in their brothers’ footsteps and bring home another national title.
Iowa Western coach Jordan Carver has had familiar names on his team before. In fact, a year after the Reivers won it all, Jackson Farnsworth came aboard to join older brother Jarom for an undefeated regular season. That team lost in the national semifinals. And last year, Gustavo and Mason were freshmen together.
But with this year’s addition of Henry, Carver now has three Reiver sibling legacies on his roster at once. That’s not only something new for the program, but it also provides a rare strand of continuity in the rapidly changing world of junior college sports.
“I think their (older brothers’) experiences in 2013 and 2014 were quite phenomenal,” Carver said. “There aren’t too many times when you’re gonna go to any program and say you went undefeated. I think with that experience, the younger brothers looked up to the older brothers and can see it’s a good opportunity to study, to play soccer and to hopefully live that same legacy and carry it on.
“I know there’s tons of pride from those three to be a part of this.”
All three come from soccer-obsessed families, but each has found his own unique path to the program.
Gustavo grew up looking up to, and competing with, two older brothers and one twin brother.
The oldest, Leo, has bounced around professional soccer since first getting selected by the Philadelphia Union in the 2013 MLS Supplemental Draft. He currently plays for the United Soccer League’s Tampa Bay Rowdies, while Gustavo and twin brother Gabriel both played for the Rowdies’ U23 team over the summer. Kaique, who finished his college career at Wright State, currently plays pro soccer in Brazil.
Whereas Gabriel stayed in New York and went to Stony Brook University like Leo did, Gustavo chose to follow Kaique’s example.
“He told me that first off, you’re probably going to meet the best friends you’re ever going to meet in your life,” Gustavo said. “And right now, it’s true. I meet people from all over the world, Europe, Brazil, and honestly, it’s some friendships I think I’ll never lose.”
Mason is one of three Farnsworth brothers currently playing college soccer.
But before Jarom and Jackson respectively moved on to Faulkner University (Ala.) and Southern Virginia University, Mason had a chance to stay with each one on a recruiting visit to Iowa Western during his senior year.
“I was able to see my family and I was able to get some practice time in with the 2014 team,” Mason said. “It was really nice being able to see the level that they play at.”
One might think that after that, Mason would be jumping at the chance to join the team and play with Jackson, but his story is more complicated.
Instead of immediately heading to Council Bluffs after graduation, Mason went on a year-long church mission trip to Argentina. He barely touched the ball when he was there, but when he got back, he made the game his focus again.
The normalcy of soccer helped ease his transition back into U.S. culture.
“The only real adjustment was just getting myself back to being fit and getting my touches in,” Mason said, "making sure I could play up to the level with the other guys.”
Henry has the largest family of the three. His three oldest brothers played through high school, Nick finished his college career playing Division I soccer at Cincinnati and his younger brother Aidan plays for the New England Revolution Academy.
Although he was only 14 when he saw Nick’s team win it all, Henry already had Iowa Western in the back of his mind for a future destination. And, like Gustavo, when it was time to start seriously considering his future, Henry listened to what his older brother had to say.
“My brother suggested it and once I started talking to Carver, this was my first choice,” he said.
Henry, who is still trying to work his way into the rotation as a freshman, says that he feels a little bit of pressure to live up to his brother’s reputation, but that his family members all have a way of charting their own course.
Mason, the Reivers’ team captain, says that his pressure comes from within as well.
“I think the only pressure is what I put on myself to be as good as they are,” he said. “My brothers, they’ve only been supportive of me and my decisions. They’ve never compared themselves to me. They’ve just told me how I’m doing what I can to be better.”
In their first season playing together, Mason came off the bench to support the back line and Gustavo started at center back. They made it to the national tournament like their brothers did, but this time the Reivers fell short in penalty kicks in the first round.
The loss hardened their resolve for Year 2.
With Gustavo and Mason now both playing key roles, the 13th-ranked Reivers have a 5-2-1 record and are determined to reach their potential before their time in Council Bluffs comes to an end.
“It’s simple,” Gustavo said. “We want to go to the national tournament. We want to do better than we did last year. We want to go to the finals. We want to see us lifting the trophy again. It’s been since 2013 – all our brothers played on that team, and we want to show our brothers that we’re better than them, and we can do it, too.”