CARSON, Calif. –Samuel arrived with the LA Galaxy with a flash of joga bonito, but now as they approach midway point of the season, the team is trying to make sure that the Brazilian forward is more substance than style.
The 23-year-old forward arrived on loan from Fluminense with great fanfare in the offseason. However since his CONCACAF Champions League game-winner against Club Tijuana in March, he hasn’t scored a goal or an assist in seven regular season appearances for the Galaxy.
Now with captain Robbie Keane away on international duty with the Republic of Ireland, Samuel is eager to step into his role for Sunday’s match against Chivas USA.
“I’m feeling great. I think that the first three months were tough but now I am finally able to feel like I am in it and able to help,” said Samuel. “I definitely feel better. I feel stronger. When I arrived, I didn’t feel like I had much strength and force. When I had a ball and I had to pass, it took me two, three seconds to figure out [due to] the quickness and the level that we are playing. But right now, I’m just like everyone else and ready to help the team.”
But like all international players that have to transition to life in the occasionally rough-and-tumble MLS – a league that Samuel compares to the National Football League at times due to its physicality – there have been some growing pains.
The Galaxy have looked to refine the Brazilian’s abilities as a target striker. While his hold up play has improved, he’s yet to find the back of the net in MLS, but there have been signs of progress.
“Samuel has shown some good improvement. His first touch is improving, his passing is improving and he’s just becoming a better soccer player,” said Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena. “There’s certainly going to be opportunities for him to play as we get into the rest of the season.”
Said Donovan, “He’s made a lot of strides. When he first came, I think that it was a little more flair than substance, which he can do because he’s incredibly talented. But the coaches have done a great job of making sure that the substance is there and he’s effective. In training over the last few weeks, he’s been very good, he understands how we want him to play and I think that he’s ready for a big performance.”
If he does earn the start against the Rojiblancos, Samuel is confident that he can provide the flair and substance that LA need to get past their rivals from across the hall.
“I think I need to be more confident definitely, and that comes with playing games,” he said while adding he wouldn’t hesitate to pull off a spectacular ball trick if the opportunity arose. “If I play more games, I would be more confident with myself and more confident is showing the good soccer that I know that I can show.”
But a final thought remains: Do the Galaxy want to see a little of that Brazilian flair in Samuel’s game?
Pois não. Or as we say in English— of course.
“I don’t care what happens as long as it’s effective,” said Donovan. “Whether it’s flair or not, at the end of the day, you need to be effective because guys like Cristiano Ronaldo and Clint Dempsey have the flair, but they’re also effective. He understands that we need certain things and can also pull off special plays as good forwards do, but he has to do all the dirty work which he’s been doing.”