Despite breaking through to thestarting lineup, something still wasn’t right for Brazilian import Juninho.
A dozen games into his MLS career, and still no league goals. No sambas. No individual moments of greatness, no real chances to celebrate.
Game 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.”
The 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.
“Yes, 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.”