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Red Bulls sign Brazilian dead ball specialist Juninho

Dec 17, 2012, 1:54 PM EDT

RBNY Juninho

There is no question whether Juninho can still strike a free kick. The guy is such a swell dead ball striker he could probably bullseye the crossbar 9 times out of 10 from every bit of 30 yards. Heck, he can probably still do that when he’s 50.

The questions about New York singing a 37-year-old midfielder are more about the moments when Juninho is not striking free kicks.

Juninho, 37, who last appeared at the highest level for Brazil at the 2006 World Cup, is the newest member of the Red Bulls makeover. If you’re counting, this is fourth new potential starters for Red Bull Arena – and the January international transfer window has yet to swing open.

On the one hand, there is no mention of “Designated Player” in the Red Bulls official release. So the non-DP price was presumably right. (And there was no transfer fee; Juninho had signed only a six-month extension at Vasco da Gama last summer, which means he should have been out of contract.)

Even into his late 30s, he was effective this fall at Vasco in Brazil. So the thought of a skillful midfielder playing behind Thierry Henry, with the bustling Dax McCarty nearby to do the running and some of the linking, has some merit. Skillful fellow, feeding the ball to another skillful fellow? Yes, more of this, please.

But there is always that pesky “other hand.”

It is fair to wonder if this is where the new Red Bull regime’s lack of MLS experience might bite them?

Remember, they are bringing in Juninho at the very same age that David Beckham, another free kick specialist, has chosen to walk away from MLS (although not, perhaps, from professional soccer).

Even more to the point, the age conundrum sometimes needs recalibration when discussing MLS. Not always … but sometimes.

Because one thing that always catches non-MLS types unawares is the high wear-and-tear factor of travel over such a large country. That, plus the debilitating heat and burden of soccer-combat in a highly physical league, can sometimes leave technical types ill equipped to deal with it all.

We’ll see.

Either way, the guy can hit free kicks. As several wisenheimers have pointed out, Roy Miller, former free kick master around Red Bull Arena, should be very worried today.

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  1. wesbadia - Dec 17, 2012 at 3:14 PM

    My problem with this signing is exactly the one you’ve mentioned, Steve. Even if the guy can bring the dead ball game up another few levels to RBA (and apparently for 50 games in 2011 in Brazil), what does the guy bring the other 85 minutes of a given match?

    The contrast between Juninho and someone like Beckham, Morales, Rosales, Davis, etc is that they contribute to both the defensive and creation solidarity of the whole team when the ball isn’t sitting on the pitch waiting for the kicker to do his deed. The uncertainty surrounding the full abilities of a 37 year old being brought into a team under entirely new management is immense. Not all have the ability to watch the Brazilian Serie A to see a full 90 minutes of this guy and what he can contribute other than set pieces.

    If he’s in shape and can run the whole pitch for 90 minutes, then great. But if he’s not going to fill in where a #10 needs to fill in during run-of-play settings, then he’ll end up dragging players like McCarty or Lindpere or even Henry out of position when they try to over-compensate. This will ultimately lead to susceptibility to counter-attacks, and could even reduce their newly revised back line to 2011 or 2012 quality, negating any of those improvements. Additionally, set piece help wasn’t something I thought NYRB needed, as Henry’s countless strikes (even off corners) are enough to make a defense anxious.

    Without seeing this guy actually playing, I can’t make any final judgement on him or his abilities off the ball. But if someone asked me if I’d sign him to my squad, it’d be an absolute and resounding “no”. Even without DP money, I couldn’t honestly spend the resources on a player that I’m not 100% comfortable with representing my team on the field.

    • Steve Davis - Dec 17, 2012 at 3:37 PM

      Cannot disagree with any of that. Thing is, I have liked the moves made my Houllier and Co. so far … so perhaps they deserve the benefit of the doubt here. As I said … we’ll see. But it’s a “we’ll see” with some warning flags, eh?

      • wesbadia - Dec 17, 2012 at 3:48 PM

        I’m in the same boat. Acquiring Olave and Espindola were great moves. Getting rid of Rafa was a far better one. This one…? “We’ll see” is extremely accurate.

  2. profootballcaulk - Dec 17, 2012 at 8:20 PM

    This would have been a good signing a few years ago but he is is effective still. Vasco have competed well the last few years and Juninho has played a big part.

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