Was there really anything that could have prepared Andre Shinyashiki for this moment?
The mercury barely hit 18 degrees at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City that day in February 2019, the coldest game in the history of Major League Soccer. Snow fell so heavily that the teams had to use a neon orange ball so they could see it. Crews stopped the game several times to shovel the lines on the field.
Shinyashiki (BSBA ’18), recently drafted from the University of Denver, had never played in a professional game. But with the Colorado Rapids down a goal and time running out, his coach told the São Paolo, Brazil, native to take off his parka and get in the game.
Not 20 minutes later, the rookie was sliding across the field in celebration. His left foot had saved the Rapids from defeat.
“It’s a goal!” the announcer screamed. “Shinyashiki! We talk about goal scorers. They know where to be: at the right time, in the right place.”
Declaring Shinyashiki a mere recipient of good fortune would be selling him short. In fact, it may be the other way around: Success has a remarkable way of following him. He led his high school team on a 117-match unbeaten streak on the way to back-to-back national championships.
After arriving at DU in 2015, he paced the team in scoring his freshman year and earned a reputation for netting big goals — until his senior year, when it seemed he scored every goal (an NCAA-leading 28 in 21 games). By the time his DU career ended, Shinyashiki held the program record for goals, game-winning goals, points and appearances.
“I came to DU because it had a great program,” he says. “I fell in love with the city. I loved the weather in Colorado, the outdoor lifestyle. But it was also the vision from [coach] Jamie [Franks] and [then-assistant coaches] Ryan Hopkins and Levi Rossi. I wanted to share that vision with them.”
Fortunately for Shinyashiki, his college program and his mentors are still well within sight. The Rapids picked Shinyashiki fifth overall in the MLS draft, meaning the young star didn’t even have to move. In fact, he still watches every DU soccer game and frequently returns to campus.
“You can never forget where you come from,” he says. “The most important thing with DU is the support that you have — people who care and want you to do better — whether that’s in a classroom or on the field.”
Succeeding in the United States’ highest professional league has been an adjustment, Shinyashiki says. The game moves faster. Players have to be more aware and more tactical.
But the 23-year-old has proved a quick study, tallying seven goals and three assists in his first season and earning the league’s rookie of the year award. His former coach, Franks, surprised him with the news during one of their weekly chats.
“[It was] one of my proudest moments as a coach,” Franks says. “Andre was my first four-year student-athlete who was fully immersed in the culture from day one. His passion, commitment and everyday mentality raised the standards for everyone that was around him. He left the program in a much better place than when we found it. His character, his attitude and his work ethic are cornerstones for who he is.”
For his part, Shinyashiki is focused on staying resilient and confident — lessons he says he learned at DU. He’s the first to admit he has a lot to improve on and off the field, though receiving the rookie of the year award was an honor. “It was so awesome, but it’s not something I’m going to lose sleep over or be thinking about all the time,” Shinyashiki says. “If I want to do big things, I have to keep moving forward and keep improving. That [award] can’t be the highlight of my career.”