CARSON, Calif. -- There’s no question that Juninho is enjoying a career year with the LA Galaxy so far in 2014.
The Brazilian midfielder’s two-way ability has helped LA break up opposing attacks while also sending penetrating balls forward to spark Galaxy counterattacks. But for all his success in the midfield, one aspect of his game is missing—goals.
To date, the 25-year-old midfielder has managed 23 shots -- nine on frame -- and three assists, but has yet to find the back of the net, a fact that is not lost on head coach Bruce Arena.
“He’s fitter, he’s more involved over 90 minutes and he understands his positioning a bit better,” said Arena. “But his finishing hasn’t been as good as it has in the past. We'd like to see him get a goal or every now and then."
However, Juninho expects that the team’s change from a diamond formation to a more traditional 4-4-2 formation over the past several weeks will allow him to get back to scoring ways.
“For me particularly, [the formation] is much better. I am very familiar with it and I can score goals. [I can] go forward, and try to create more chances for the team,” said Juninho. “This is my style. For me it’s good, for the team I think you can have to ball more. It’s our older style, older formation, so our team is very familiar with that.
“In the diamond, I'm a holding midfielder. I have to stay with our backline and I can't leave that spot. But with two midfielders, I can go forward,” said Juninho. “Even though I haven't scored yet, I’m going to put more pressure on myself [to score] and I will do my best so that we can win.”
While Arena agrees that theoretically, this formation should help Juninho get forward, but he’s waiting for it to pay off.
“Regardless of where he’s playing or the system, he’s capable of getting us a couple goals in the season,” said Arena. “His finishing needs to get better.”
The LA Galaxy are off this weekend and as a way to recharge their batteries ahead of the long MLS season, the team's Brazilian contigent got into the Samba-spirit after training on Thursday and had a little bit of sing-a-long through the halls of StubHub Center.
Check it out below.
In the latest edition of LAGalaxy.com's "By the Numbers," we look at the LA Galaxy's CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals second leg against Club Tijuana.
Check it out below.
Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas hoping to wrestle control of the game away from Cristian Pellerano and the Tijuana midfield
CARSON, Calif. – In what promises to be a match played a breakneck pace, controlling the midfield will be vital once the LA Galaxy take the field against Club Tijuana at the Estadio Caliente on Tuesday.
The task of slowing the game down will not be an easy one for Galaxy midfielders Juninho and Marcelo Sarvas as they’ll look to stifle Tijuana’s dynamic midfield pairing of Fernando Arce and Christian Pellerano.
In the second half of LA’s 1-0 CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal first leg victory last week, Pellerano was particularly effective, pulling the strings as Tijuana tried searched for equalizer. With Tijuana needing a goal to get back into the series, limiting the box-to-box midfielder’s chances at goal will be key for LA.
“[Pellerano is] a very good player. He was a very calm player, he looks to control the game and dish the ball across the field. Marcelo and I have talked about him a lot this week,” said Juninho. “We’ve also got to be mindful of [Arce] as well, so we’ve got to be prepared and pay attention at all times.”
Although the two midfielders pose a major threat for LA, Sarvas believes that if LA can slow down the frantic pace, the team can force Tijuana into uncomfortable positions.
“We have to be in good spots and not give up space. But the most important thing is that every time we go forward, we have to [get shots off] which allows the team time to go back and defend again,” said Sarvas. “We've simply have to delay the game as much as we can whether it’s with fouls, corner kicks, free kicks, or throw-ins because as time wears on, they’re going to get nervous and make mistakes."
It’s that time again when we make our resolutions for the New Year in hopes of making our lives just a little bit better.
To properly ring in what promises to be an eventful 2014, I decided to make a list of LA Galaxy New Year’s Resolutions. Now this list ranges from my own thoughts about what the team needs to a few other ideas on how to improve the team and MLS in the New Year.
* Build toward the future: continue to offer playing time to younger players like Jack McBean, Rafael Garcia and Greg Cochrane. One of the team’s greatest successes of 2013 was that head coach Bruce Arena afforded plenty of valuable game time to players like the three aforementioned youth. With international commitments and injuries likely to cause problems yet again, the Galaxy boss should continue his policy of giving time to emerging young talent.
*Deal with change: There will be some notable absences from the LA Galaxy roster in 2013, but none will be bigger than the departures of longtime right-sided player Sean Franklin—who was selected in Stage One of the MLS Re-Entry Process by D.C. United—and Jose Villarreal who was sent on a year-long loan with Cruz Azul. Both players were frequent contributors a year ago and will need to be replaced in the coming weeks.
*Allow Juninho to receive more responsibility in the attack especially on free kick situations. The Brazilian midfielder saw his offensive impact stunted in 2013, but he’ll be expected to carry more of the load next season especially on set piece opportunities.
*That being said, LA must show more resilience on defending set pieces and second ball opportunities to prevent the deficiencies that caused the club to fail last season. We've gone over this one many, many times.
*Find a new center forward to play alongside Robbie Keane to add a natural target striker to the Galaxy attack. During the club’s final media availability of 2013, Arena stated that finding this type of player was priority number one for LA ahead of the next campaign and with the transfer window open; the Galaxy will have the chance to get their man. With a target presence alongside Keane, Landon Donovan could transition back to the right midfield and offer greater width to the midfield.
*Build off what was learned in 2013: Continued production from Marcelo Sarvas and Jaime Penedo. LA’s two breakout stars in 2013 were Marcelo Sarvas and Jaime Penedo who became regular members of the Galaxy starting XI by season’s end, but production must continue to progress into 2014. For Sarvas, he’ll likely need cede some of his offensive responsibilities to his midfield partner Juninho and contain his physical exuberance that caused him to lead MLS in fouls committed last year. Meanwhile, Penedo must continue to progress as a goalkeeper and cut down on mistakes that led to goals down the stretch.
*More professional growth from Gyasi Zardes and Robbie Rogers. The two attackers experienced inconsistent seasons in 2013, but the New Year brings greater expectations for both to provide reliable contributions for LA. If the pair can develop into offensive weapons, LA may have an added attacking dimension—particularly on the flanks— that was sorely lacking last season.
*Be more successful: Make a strong run in the U.S. Open Cup. The LA Galaxy have gone out in the third round in the U.S. Open Cup to the Carolina RailHawks each of the last two years, but with no CONCACAF Champions League waiting for them in the fall, a long run in the Open Cup should be beneficial for the team to provide minutes to their entire roster. Also, winning the USOC will help place the team back into the CCL for the 2015-16 tournament.
*Continue see the LA Galaxy Academy grow and produce players who could become valuable members of the first team in the future. LA Academy forawrd Haji Wright garnered a lot of the headlines toward the end of the year, but LA’s academy teams are continuing to show promise in the form of players like Adonis Amaya, Jaime Villarreal and many others.
*Good health to Robbie Keane who is recovering from surgery on both of his Achilles as he looks to get ready for the preseason. The Galaxy are hoping to have their captain back to full health by the start of preseason, but what is most important is having him fit and ready for the start of the season and the all-important CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal against Club Tijuana in March.
*Travel More: Get off to a strong start against Club Tijuana in the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinal and keep dreams of the FIFA Club World Cup alive. The LA Galaxy’s quest for continental glory begins in March as they host the first leg of the CCL quarterfinals against Club Tijuana. With a victory at home, the Galaxy will be in strong standing as they look to advance past Xolos and reach the CCL semifinals for a second consecutive year in front of a hostile crowd at Estadio Calliente.
*Prosperity for Omar Gonzalez and Landon Donovan as they look to make their World Cup dream come true. Both Galaxy Designated Players appear to be strong candidates to make U.S. National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, but both will need to stay healthy and in form to ensure a place on the plane to Brazil. If they’re able to reach Brazil, the pair is likely to be in Klinsmann’s starting XI and can expect to be major contributors as the U.S. hopes to advance from Group G over the likes of Ghana, Portugal and Germany. Here’s hoping for more moments like this one from four years ago.
*New ventures for the coming year: New MLS Television deals. Southern California is spoiled with the great Galaxy coverage on the Time Warner SportsNet and Time Warner Cable Deportes, but in 2014, MLS will look to negotiate their new national television deals which will play a major role in the league’s growth going forward. More financial resources from national television partners can only help grow the league which hopes to be among the world’s best during the next decade.
*Continue to foster a connection with the readers of this blog and all content on LAGalaxy.com. What truly makes my job worthwhile is interacting with all of those that enjoy my work on the LA Galaxy Insider Blog and LAGalaxy.com, and in 2014, I hope to have greater interaction with you the readers so that we can place the type of content that you’re looking for on this space.
Happy New Year.
In what might be my favorite holiday video this year, Juninho offers his own special Happy Holidays message after firing a free kick in front of a wall made of Christmas trees.
Check it out below.