When asked during the preseason about possible breakthrough players, LA Galaxy head coach Bruce Arena mentioned Juninho time and again. With one full season in MLS under his belt, Arena insisted that the Brazilian was on the verge of a strong campaign.
The season just started, but so far, so good.
Juninho made good on his boss' confidence as he scored the only goal in Tuesday's season-opening 1-0 win at Seattle. The second-year man out of São Paulo rifled in a shot from about 25 yards out early in the second half as the Galaxy notched three points in their first time out in 2011.
To Juninho, there wasn't much to the goal. It was simple, straightforward, and definitive.
“When Todd [Dunivant] passed me the ball, I was conscious that I was alone," Juninho told MLSsoccer.com. "So I looked to the net and hit the ball."
Seattle 'keeper Kasey Keller, already a victim of Juninho last season, dove and got a piece of the swerving strike, but it was not enough to prevent the ball from hitting the back of the net.
Juninho admitted that he was unsure whether or not a shot from distance would result in a goal, but he reached back and made the attempt regardless. Teammates said a year ago that Juninho was a bit tentative in taking such attempts, but the Brazilian seems to have figured out that part of his game.
“I didn’t know I was going to score because I had a great goalkeeper in front of me," Juninho said, "but I just decided to hit the ball."
A year ago, Juninho scored on a long-range shot on Keller in a 3-1 win over Seattle at The Home Depot Center. This time around, his strike propelled the Galaxy to three road points.
That it meant the Galaxy claimed victory was the most meaningful part of his goal.
“It was important because we keep the rhythm," said Juninho. "It was a great victory as visitors, so I’m very happy and I’m satisfied for it."
Juninho and the Galaxy return to Southern California and will host New England on Sunday at 5 p.m. in their home opener. Shortly after the Sounders match, Juninho said he was already anticipating the atmosphere and environment that awaits this weekend.
“It will be a great home game,” he said. “We will start [a new season] at home in front of our fans, so we hope people come to enjoy the game.”
On Sunday, March 20, the Galaxy will host the New England Revolution in their home opener, presented by Pechanga Resort & Casino, at 5 p.m. at The Home Depot Center. The first 15,000 fans will receive 2011 magnet schedules. Tickets are available for that match, starting at $25. BUY NOW