CARSON, Calif. – Juninho began the season with dreams of becoming one of the Galaxy’s main offensive weapons, but six games into the season, things have turned out quite differently for the Brazilian midfielder.
Juninho, who is one of just four players to start each of the team’s five regular season games this season, has been routinely stationed at the bottom of Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena’s new diamond midfield. From his position shielding the back four, the Brazilian’s primary role is to break up opposition attacks and then quickly pass the ball forward.
“He’s playing very well,” said Arena. “He’s a good player going forward as well, but I think that he’s on the ball a bit more with the way that we’re playing. He’s a good possession player and he’s in form right now.”
Having a primarily defensive responsibility is not a new concept for Juninho as he has often been stationed as a defensive-minded central midfielder throughout his five-year stint with the club. Now his passing ability is central to LA’s diamond midfield as he is able to connect with the likes of Stefan Ishizaki and Baggio Husidic.
The Brazilian says he owes his strong start to starting the preseason with the Galaxy for the first time since joining the club. Injuries and trips to former club Sao Paulo caused him to miss significant time during the preseason in past years.
Fresh off shutting down the previously red hot Vancouver Whitecaps FC playmaker Pedro Morales, Juninho will now be charged with stopping talented Colorado Rapids youngster Dillon Serna, who scored his first career goal a week earlier.
“[Defensive midfield] is not necessarily my best position, but I feel very comfortable playing behind our midfielders,” said Juninho. “I’m looking forward to getting big points against Colorado. I know that I can pass the ball whether it’s short or long which helps my team. It’s a big advantage for us.
“I was expecting to go forward more this year, score a lot of goals, but you never know,” Juninho added. “The coach has a different mentality in the beginning of the season… and the team did so well so far.”
But ultimately no matter where Juninho plays in the center of the park, the Brazilian midfielder simply wants to have an impact on the field.
“The midfield is midfield,” he says. “It doesn’t matter if I have to hold or go forward, you just have to understand the game.”