Senior men’s soccer defender and fourth-year captain Dennis Castillo was named Premier League Development (PLD) Defensive Player of the Year in July. The Costa Rican native was also named to the PLD All-League and All-Western Conference teams.
Castillo has been an asset to the VCU men’s soccer team since his freshman season in 2012 when he was named a captain. Despite playing in the backline, Castillo has managed to score 14 goals, primarily off corner kicks, penalty kicks and free kicks.
“Dennis is one of the more professional and hardworking college players that I’ve worked with,” said head coach Dave Giffard. “He can play as a center back, a right back or even as a defensive mid. He has scored 12 goals in his first two years with us as a defender and is one of the most impactful players in the country.”
Castillo played 11 games, starting nine, for the Portland Timbers U-23 PLD team, where he scored one goal and one assist in 893 minutes of play. At the end of the season, Portland finished with a record of 6-3-4, placing them second in the PDL’s Northwest Division. They allowed nine goals in 12 matches, tying the team for fourth among the league’s 63 teams.
“(Getting called up for the national team) gives you confidence,” Castillo said. “The players over there are all professionals for the most part. Everyone, every day, is very focused. The more you are interacting with professional players that are better than you the better. They play at a better level. The coaches are more experienced. You have everything you need.”
In Castillo’s rookie season, he started in 18 matches and was named to the All-Atlantic-10 second team and All-Rookie squad, tabbed by CollegeSoccerNews.com as a Freshman All-American and selected by the National Soccer Coaches Association of America to the Second Team All-Mid-Atlantic Region.
The All-American was named first team not only for the Atlantic 10, but also the NSCAA’s All-Mid Atlantic Region First Team and Virginia Sports Information Directors All-State First Team.
“The greatest improvements I had at VCU were more in my mind than on the field. Mentally wise, it’s more a challenge than I had (in Costa Rica),” Castillo said.
This past season, Castillo earned All Atlantic 10 Conference honors after VCU’s defense allowed the fewest goals in the programs 37-year history, and the 11th fewest in the country.
Despite his honors and awards, Castillo said he remains humble and grateful.
“It would be too selfish just to put myself in that position of defender of the year,” Castillo said. “It’s a whole effort together as a union. It’s not just me in the back. It’s four plus, 11 plus, 18 plus the coaches. It’s nice to be recognized but at the same time I have to recognize the people who help me.”