“I never lose. I either win or learn.”

If Brave SC II adopts that adage, popularly attributed to the late Nelson Mandela, the Buffalo did a lot of learning last year.

Through its first two seasons of play in the United Premier Soccer League, Brave SC’s second team struggled to find its footing. Now, with a year of experience, head coach Yago Lopes believes both he and the team are ready to take a step forward when they begin a new season this weekend.

“Every season, we need to forget about the past,” Lopes said. “Even if we win everything, we need to forget because we’ll have different teams and our team is different as well. Every practice, I tell them to forget, even the games that we won, because every team is different.”

Brave SC II will begin the spring season in Florida’s Central Zone 1 conference this Sunday in an opener against UPSL newcomer Gatorville FC. After winning just one match and losing seven last fall, the Buffalo expect very different results in the upcoming campaign.

“I have a totally different team right now,” Lopes said. “The best players from last season remain on the team and I have a lot of young, good players that are improving. Every practice, I see the improvement. It’s step-by-step, but my expectations are high.”

Some of those players joined the team via Brave SC’s Evolve program, a residential training program which allows players to train and compete over a period of several weeks.

“The importance of Evolve for my team is that they’re very good physically because they’ve been practicing with us for two months,” Lopes said.

That physical development has been key for several players, including midfielder Pedro Santos, who arrived at the club in February.

“It was very good for me to prepare myself, because the soccer level is very different,” Santos said. “Here, it’s much more physical, compared to Brazil, where everything is tactical. I thought it would be easier when I got here, but the strengths are different and equally challenging.”

While several players, like Santos, have been training with the team for months, others have arrived far more recently. Forward Nelson Andrade returns from last year’s team, but only reached Summerfield on Monday and had just two practices with the full team prior to Sunday’s match.

“I think the challenge is the chemistry, the communication,” Andrade said. “There are players from around the world and players from the U.S. or Brazil, so communication can be difficult.”

What all of the players share, though, is a desire to compete.

“My big challenge right now is to make them ready, to change their mentality to a winner’s mentality,” Lopes said. “They’re reacting really well, responding in practice and showing me that they want to win. We don’t know if they’ll win, but they’re showing a lot of improvement and I’m very excited.”

Brave SC II will open the spring season at 6 p.m. Sunday against Gatorville FC at St. Francis Catholic Academy in Gainesville. The team will play its home opener against Current FC at 7:30 p.m. April 14th at the Brave SC Complex in Summerfield.

For a complete schedule and roster for Brave SC II, click here. For more information on UPSL, visit upsl.com.