CHESTER, Pa. – Kléberson only played 11 minutes in his MLS debut Saturday.
It was plenty of time to show why the Philadelphia Union recently acquired him as their new Designated Player.
After entering the game against Toronto FC at PPL Park with the Union trailing by a goal, Kléberson added a nice spark to the attack to help the Union earn a 1-1 draw.
And the Brazilian midfielder very nearly pushed his new team to a victory, playing a brilliant through ball to send Antoine Hoppenot on a breakaway that was thwarted by Toronto goalkeeper Joe Bendik in the final minute. Bendik also needed to make a diving save to push away a Kléberson shot in the 87th minute.
“It felt good,” Kléberson said through a translator from the locker room after the game. “I would have liked to have helped even more if that was possible. The moment I went in, the game was very physical and it was very tough. As time goes on, I know for sure that I can help a lot.”
Kléberson was acquired on loan from the Brazilian club Bahia on March 25 but didn’t play in a game until Saturday as he continues to get integrated with the Union.
Afterwards, Union manager John Hackworth praised the patience the World Cup veteran has shown since coming over from Brazil.
“Kléberson is one of the best professionals I’ve been around in the short time that I’ve been around him,” Hackworth said. “He understands that you come to work every single day, you do everything you can as a player to put yourself in a position to be selected. He said, ‘Whenever you want to put me in, I’m ready.’ And that’s what you want from a pro.”
Kléberson acknowledged the waiting game wasn’t especially difficult, noting that he knew it would depend on “how the game flowed and whenever the coach needed me.”
And he seemed happy that his debut came at home, in front of his new fans.
“It was a great environment and a great atmosphere,” Kléberson said. “I really enjoyed the Union chants and how they helped us tie the game. Hopefully next time, we can get a victory for them.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.