If Juninho burst onto the scene last year, then he is in the process of bringing down the house this season.
More relaxed, better adapted and infinite times more comfortable with speaking in English or Spanish, the Galaxy’s 22-year-old Brazilian midfielder has had a flying start to the 2011 season. His two goals in the first two games of the campaign were crucial in the Galaxy getting a win in Seattle and a draw at home against New England.
We recently sat down with Vitor Gomes Pereira Junior to talk about how he is adjusting to life in L.A. and his pair of wonder-goals, which is a perfect place to start this Q&A.
Juninho, you seem to handle the Jabulani, the adidas ball used throughout MLS better than a lot of players. Why is that?
“I’ve been practicing a lot, getting to know the ball, and doing everything possible so that I can score on the field on game day. I do lots of repetitions and I think that’s helped a lot. I don’t know if I dominate it, but I’ve had a lot of success scoring from long distance, both this year and last year.”
Give us your impressions on the start you’ve had to the season.
“I’m very happy. It’s been phenomenal. We’ve gotten off to good a start and I’ve scored two very important goals for the team. All I want to do is play for the Galaxy. Whether we win or lose, I just want to play.”
You obviously seem to have fun when you play and are enjoying life right now. Your goal celebration is a blend of everything. Where did your dance come from?
“My principal celebration, the samba, is because I’m Brazilian and I like to dance a lot. I miss Brazil, a lot, but I’m very happy to be here. I dedicate it to those in Brazil.
You celebrated your goal in the home opener a little bit differently. Why no samba?
“That one was in honor of Sean Franklin. I did it for him. Sean said if I scored a goal that he wanted to dance with me during my celebration, and that’s what I did. We did a Rap, or Hip-Hop dance as they call it here, and he was very happy.” WATCH: Juninho and Franklin celebrate
During preseason, Bruce singled you out and said you were one of the biggest surprises in camp. What’s been different for you from last year to this year?
“I feel great, I feel good in my play and I feel good talking to people, sometimes in English, even. I’m honored that Bruce said those things. I will continue to give it my all so that he continues to think highly of me on the field.”
Did the way last season ended motivate you?
“On one side, we’re happy, but the season was somewhat soured because we were not able to win the Western Conference Championship. We were so close, but couldn’t do it. But this year we are going to shoulder the responsibility of winning MLS and the other competitions. We’re conscious that we need to do a good job.”
Even though you already have one year under your belt, what’s it like to play with the likes of international superstars like David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Juan Pablo Angel?
“I never dreamed of it, it never crossed my head that one day I would play with great players like them. I feel very privileged to have teammates like that on the field, on the team, and not just them but all the players on this team are great players.”
We spoke earlier about the home opener, what was that like to see the support from the fans who braved the storm?
“All the players, we were happy to see all of the fans. It was exciting. They were right there with us (in standing out there in the rain) and proved themselves as true fans. And, I’m honored to be able to have them alongside us in all games. I want the fans to know that I’m going to fight for those that give me a chance— the Galaxy gave me this chance so I’m always going to give it my all.”
This article was originally published in the LA Galaxy Gameday Program. Be sure to pick up one of the new Gameday Programs, filled with exclusive content, match info and fun facts, the next time you're at The Home Depot Center for a Galaxy home match.