CARSON, Calif. – Since joining Chivas USA from Romanian club FC Universitatea Craiova on Aug. 12, center back David Júnior Lopes has become a staple in the Goats defense.
Five of his first six appearances have been starts. But that’s not to say that there haven’t been bumps along the road as the 6-foot-4 Júnior Lopes has adjusted to life in MLS.
"I knew it'd be a complicated transition from Europe, but it's been easier than I expected and overall, I'm very happy and I hope that I can stay for a while," he told MLSsoccer.com. “The first three games were very important for me because I had a lot of doubts and I questioned my soccer and what I could do. Those two games were important for me in defining what kind of player that I wanted to be.”
What Júnior Lopes has become is a hard-nosed defender, using his imposing size to overpower opponents. But his penchant for physical play has gotten him into some trouble during his short time with Chivas USA.
In his first appearance, the 29-year-old was lucky not to surrender a penalty kick after appearing to bring down a Sounders player late in the match. Two matches later, the Brazilian was red-carded for a tackle on Chris Pontius that left the D.C. United winger with a broken right leg.
Since returning from his suspension, however, Júnior Lopes has shown signs of quality.
“It's a matter of him getting fit and his legs under him and certainly integrating him into back four and he's been very proactive about that,” Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser said of the 29-year-old Brazilian
Júnior Lopes admits that returning to match fitness has been the biggest issue since arriving at Chivas. After Universitatea Craiova were excluded from the Romanian top flight due to a legal dispute in July, he returned home.
“I had been off for a while on vacation in Brazil, so it took me awhile to get into game shape and out of the funk that I was in,” said Júnior Lopes. “I had those negative moments, but working out those kinks was important because I had so much time off.”
Now at full match fitness and with Chivas out of postseason contention, Júnior Lopes has set his sights on locking down a spot for 2012.
"I hope to come back,” he added. “I want to finish my career in MLS. I feel like I have a lot of good years left and I feel like I can help Chivas USA."
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.