LAS VEGAS – A year ago, Alisson de Souza would wake up, go work some cattle and ride on horseback all day in Brazil with his twin brother, Alan.
They were cowboys through and through.
Things have been different for the 25-year-old this year in the United States.
Alisson lives in an apartment with Ramon de Lima in Decatur, Texas.
He has no cattle, no horses and no land.
Horseback riding was replaced with a PS4 controller.
His brother was stuck in Brazil because of visa issues and their conversations have been limited to WhatsApp messages and video chats.
The two would play FIFA soccer on their PS4s online throughout the day.
This was not the way to qualify for the 2018 PBR World Finals, Alisson would think to himself.
However, he did not want to be a burden to his friends in Texas that have their own ranches or horses.
He was uncomfortable being a nuisance.
It was easier for him to stay home, watch TV and go to the gym and train.
Souza was outside of the Top 35 of the world standings with about month remaining until the World Finals began.
The first-year bull rider knew he needed to get things back on track at the end of September.
“I haven’t ridden to my full potential,” Souza said with the help of Paulo Crimber translating in Austin, Texas. “I am still battling. For now on, I am going to start riding better and make the Finals.
Souza’s eyes then trail toward the ground when asked if he could pinpoint his troubles.
“I think it is just being lonely,” he continued. “I am real tight with my brother. We are real tight and we used to live together. We are tight.
“The second thing is the routine I have in Brazil is not the same that I have here. In Brazil, I would be on horseback all day and be on bucking bulls and doing some stuff. Over here, I just stay inside the house. I will play video games and stay inside.”
Souza would go on to go 4-for-8 at non-premier series event in October.
He earned zero world points, though, and fell to No. 43 in the world standings prior to the 2018 Real Time Pain Relief Velocity Tour Finals.
Alan WhatsApped his brother prior to the start of Round 1 on Friday night.
“He always say the same thing,” Alisson said. “‘Bear down and spur them. Do good.’”
“He would say the same thing every time, but it means a lot. My brother will tell me change this or change that just like if he was here. My free arm or if my body is too forward or behind. Tell me to sit up more. Whatever I need to do to get better. He is my coach.”
Alan knew his brother just needed to loosen up and be happy inside the arena. Be comfortable and your skillset will take over.
Alisson showed up at the South Point Hotel Casino & Spa much more relaxed than he ever has at a PBR event.
The magnitude of the situation was not affecting him.
He was joking around with his friends.
He was dialed in.
He was happy to have one more opportunity to qualify for the World Finals.
Not only did Souza come through with a World Finals qualification, but his 2-for-3 showing also secured for him the 2018 Velocity Tour Championship, a second-place finish and a career-high payday of $72,600.
That equates to $269,897.76 reals in Brazil.
Fittingly, Souza was already thinking about how great it will be to return home to Brazil and celebrate with his family in a few weeks.
“It is so big,” Souza said. “I really cannot believe it yet. I came in at the back of the pack, and I really thought I couldn’t have it. God makes stuff amazing in your life. I turned things around and won this.
“I can’t wait to go back to Brazil to celebrate with my family. Hang out with them and come back fresh in the (new) year.”
Souza got extremely lucky in winning the Velocity Tour championship.
He began the weekend with 87 points on Heartless, but he next bucked off Cool Arrow in 2.3 seconds.
Souza was the odd man out for the championship round before three-time World Champion Silvano Alves withdrew from the final round.
He capitalized on the second chance by riding Handsome Jeff for 88 points to surge to second place in the event and take over the No. 1 ranking in the Velocity Tour standings.
“This is exactly what I have seen this year, but stringing those rides together has been the struggle for him,” RidePass commentator Colby Yates said. “88 points here for Alisson de Souza, but he didn’t ride all of his bulls here. That is the issue that he has, being perfect on a weekend, but this big.”
It still appeared to be a longshot that Souza would win the Velocity title. Then eight of the final nine riders in the championship round all bucked off.
“I’m happy I got a good bull,” Souza said. “I tried 100 percent and this is the last chance to go to the Finals. I’m very happy I could cover my bull.”
Souza heads into Round 1 of the World Finals Wednesday night 34th in the world standings.
He is slated to face Big Black (11-1, PBR UTB).
Fans can watch the World Finals on CBS Sports Network beginning at 9:30 p.m. ET. RidePass will also have supporting coverage starting at 9:30 p.m.
Three-time World Champion and RidePass analyst Adriano Moraes said he is surprised it took this long for Souza to find success in the United States.
Souza is 36-for-81 (44.44 percent) at all levels in his first year in the U.S. His riding percentage drops to 35 percent (7-for-20) on the premier series.
“He rode extremely good (at the Velocity Finals),” Moraes said. “I am actually surprised he didn’t make it before. This shows how good he is. He does good under pressure.”
Souza won two major rodeos in Brazil – Barretos (2017) and Rio Verde (2015) – prior to riding full time in the United States.
Moraes says he can tell Alisson has struggled without his brother.
Adriano and his brothers Allan and Andre are the only three brothers to qualify for the same World Finals together.
“He is dying to have his brother here,” Moraes said. “They never, ever stay apart from each other. It has been tough on both of them. When Alan gets his visa, it is going to be double trouble.”
Alan de Souza was unable to watch the final round of the Velocity Finals because he was at a Brazilian rodeo, but Alisson expects his brother to be following the action during the World Finals.
Alisson immediately sent his winning photos and videos to Alan when he got back to his hotel room on Saturday night.
The first-time PBR World Finalist expects his brother to be following his performance in Vegas this week closely, and Souza has a gut feeling more good things are about to happen.
“I don’t know what it is, but I just felt inside of me this week was different,” he concluded. “I felt it was all going to work out. I know it was going to be OK.
“This is amazing.”
Follow Justin Felisko on Twitter @jfelisko
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