CARSON, Calif. –A year ago, Juninho saw his role – and his impact on the stat sheet— changed due to the success of compatriot Marcelo Sarvas, but don’t expect to see that same Juninho during the 2014 campaign.
Following a successful 2012 season that saw Juninho score a career-high seven goals and four assists alongside midfield partner David Beckham, the Brazilian’s numbers took a hit during the ill-fated 2013 campaign with just a single goal and four assists. Much of the reason for Juninho’s dip in production stemmed from Sarvas, as the industrious veteran frequently pushed forward into the attack more often, leaving Juninho to fill the holding role in front of the Galaxy back line.
Now ahead of the 2014 season, Bruce Arena wants just one thing from Juninho: offensive “consistency.”
“Juninho is a good player but he was very inconsistent last year,” said head coach Bruce Arena. “I think that he’s about had his best preseason. He’s shown a lot of progress in the last couple of weeks and we’re hopeful that he starts the season off well. He didn’t start 2013 off well and now he has a chance to improve.”
Following the Galaxy’s postseason exit last November against Real Salt Lake, Arena wasted no time reaching out to Juninho to implore him to take a greater role in the offense in the coming season.
“I spoke to Bruce a lot about that and I hope that I can move up to the front and play next to the target players so that I can be looking for the combination play,” said Juninho. “When you go forward you have more chances to score and that’s my mentality and the mentality that Bruce wants. I’m hoping for success this year.”
Added Juninho, “With the Brazilian style, you don’t typically hold in the midfield in front of the defenders, but go forward much better. I hope that this year, we’re both able to switch and have success on both sides.”
This change does little to unnerve Sarvas who assumes that the midfield connection that helped him tally four goals and six assists last year will remain the same.
“Well, we’re still married,” said Sarvas. "Our relationship is still the same. It’s the same for us. Our relationship is still the same if Juninho goes forward. It’s good because we share [the responsibilities].
“We didn’t have any rules last year on who went forward or who stayed, it was the game and it was the situation that happened,” added Sarvas who emphasized the importance of communication between the pair. “It’s good that he has [the drive] to go forward and score goals and go forward.”
Such a balance pleases Arena who admitted that Juninho was too deferential to the marauding Sarvas in stages during the team’s previous campaign.
“Possibly,” said Arena. “Well, if you’re going to be deferential to Beckham, being deferential to Sarvas should not impede his game. That’s not an excuse. Those two know how to play off of each other and Juninho needs to have a great role each game.”
No matter who is going forward whether it’s him or Juninho, Sarvas expects the end product to typify that old Brazilian tagline: Joga Bonito.
“We expect to see good soccer,” said Sarvas. “It’s not easy because we play against other teams that are more physical, but we’re always looking for good soccer with passes and combinations, and something that is nice to see.”