February 17, 2013
Juninho's play impresses coach, teammates
TUCSON, Ariz. -- One of the bright spots of the Red Bulls' 3-1 loss to the New England Revolution on Saturday night was the play of Juninho.
It went beyond the fact the veteran Brazilian midfielder scored the lone goal in the Tucson Desert Diamond Cup match. It was his overall play on both sides of the ball.
Head coach Mike Petke said that in the "first half watching Juninho was a pleasure. Forget about what he does with the ball. His awareness defensively, his movements defensively to close down space to be the first to the ball. Getting ahold of the ball. His vision, starting our attacks. Linking up with Thierry [Henry], [Fabian] Espindola and [Tim] Cahill. It was nice to watch. That free kick at the end was a little taste for the people to watch.That was nice."
So was Juninho's first half goal. He took advantage of a Henry dummy to beat goalkeeper Matt Reis from atop the penalty area in the 11th minute. He almost doubled the lead with a second goal in the 26th minute. Cahill laid off the ball to the Brazilian, who curled around a left-footed effort barely past the far right post.
Juninho played the opening 45 minutes before he was replaced by Michael Bustamante at halftime.
He certainly was missed in the second half as the Red Bulls broke down and allowed all three goals, including two within a five-minute span that turned the game around.
But that did not diminish his performance.
"Juninho is an elite player," Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles said. "The leadership and experience that he brings to the field, you can see in the first half. He dictates the play. He brings a type of steadiness that elite players bring. I think he's going to be a credit for us in the future."