Confidence, swagger growing for LA's Juninho

First MLS goal punctuates rapid rise for Brazilian import


Photo Credit: 
Victor Decolongon

Despite breaking through to the LA Galaxy starting lineup,
something still wasn’t right for Brazilian import Juninho.

dozen games into his MLS career, and still no league goals. No sambas.
No individual moments of greatness, no real chances to celebrate.

No. 13, though, offered up the moment. Early in the second half of
Sunday’s match against Seattle, Juninho let a 30-yard bomb fly. The ball screamed
towards the goal, zoomed past Seattle’s Kasey Keller and settled into the upper right
corner of the net.

Celebrating with a quick Samba, Juninho said
the moment was what he had been longing for.

“For me, it was very
important, for my history with the Galaxy,” Juninho said. “Scoring the
first goal, like for most people, it’s important – scoring goals for the
Galaxy is why I came here.”

Raved Galaxy star Landon Donovan: “I would
say Goal of the Year candidate. Unbelievable strike.”

Juninho is
one of three Sao Paulo players on loan to the Galaxy. Alex Cazumba and Leonardo have both seen action in games, but
Juninho thus far is the first to find the back of the net.

biggest reasons for Juninho’s recent success? Confidence and
familiarity, according to Galaxy coach Bruce Arena.

“We’ve seen
this over the last month. He’s really gotten his confidence,” Arena
said. “He’s a very good player. He's caught up to the speed of the game
and the kind of game we play here in MLS. With all players there’s a
transition period, and he’s done really well this entire year, but you
can see him beginning to emerge.”

With that newfound confidence,
Juninho now has what he needs to try such long-range attempts on goal,
like the blast that beat Keller.

“We’ve seen him do it in
practice a lot of , and so when he gets a chance in there we want him to
shoot,” Donovan said. “Even if he doesn't put it there, even if he puts
it on goal, it's dangerous for the goalkeeper and it's difficult
especially with that ball to deal with.”

Training has helped
Juninho get to where he is now, a bona fide starter on arguably the best
club in the league. The 21 year-old has started all 13 MLS games he’s
played in, and also scored a goal in the team’s 2-0 win over AC St.
Louis in the US Open Cup on June 29.

“Training has been good –
it’s very important, so that I can do well, score goals, and help out
the Galaxy,” he said.

And while his goal was marveled by his
teammates, his post-goal celebration didn’t quite leave the same
impression. It was similar to a celebration made popular by Santos’
Neymar, but one that Juninho was unable to carry over into MLS.

it was samba – the Americans don’t know it very well; it’s a
celebration, calling everyone to dance,” he said. “It didn’t work out
very well, but that’s okay.”