Juninho’s presence in midfield for the LA Galaxy is a testament to what Bruce Arena’s team can leverage in loan from Brazil, so if there’s any trepidation about what the Carson-based bunch are doing by importing 22-year-old Samuel on loan from Fluminense, fans can look at the Galaxy’s track record. Though the team has a soft spot for Major League Soccer veterans, they have been somewhat shrewd about what they order from the Brasileirao. (Defender Leonardo has also provided valuable depth.)
Immediately upon hearing about the loan, however, I thought back to Rafael – the (then) 20-year-old that D.C. United imported last year as a young Designated Player. Unveiled as having experience in Brazil’s first division, the young striker’s time at Brazil’s top level was actually very limited, his only score coming in a meaningless game to close the 2012 season. After arriving from Bahia, the attacker never truly made an impact, his only goal in seven games coming from a long shot that Columbus’s Andy Gruenebaum badly misread. By June, Rafael was gone.
Samuel appears to be a much better bet then Rafael, mostly because we can see what he’s done in Brazil’s top division. Over the last two years with Fluminense, the forward has made 49 appearances (24 starts) and scored nine goals. While those aren’t earth-shaking numbers, they’re encouraging given Samuel’s age, the teams he played for (a league-winner in 2012; a relegated team in 2013), and the presence of Brazilian international Fred, who served as the team’s primary focus in attack.
In that sense, this isn’t just another random guy from Brazil on whom an MLS team is taking a flyer. LA fans aren’t being asked to believe scouting they can’t see or take it for granted that being imported form a better league necessarily means something about future output. They can look at what’s Samuel’s actually done.
The forward wasn’t a sure-fire starter for Fluminense (one of the biggest clubs in Rio de Janeiro), but he was getting playing time, scoring a goal every 257 league minutes. If that production carries over to MLS, he could be a useful spare part. If he improves on it against a lower level of competition, LA’s found themselves a valuable piece – somebody that could provide Arena with some valuable flexibility during the long MLS campaign.
Of course, there are the obligatory questions of fit and acclimation, but this isn’t another Rafael situation, and LA’s hasn’t had to use a young DP slot to make the move. This is a young player who has scored goals with a big team. And now he’s LA’s latest experiment in loans from Brazil.
Here’s a little taste of what he can do: