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.
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.