Juninho - Chicago Fire - March 11, 2017

CHICAGO – Juninho joined the LA Galaxy in 2010 as a 20-year-old loanee in a strange, faraway land with almost no senior minutes under his belt.


When he left in 2015, he had won three MLS Cups, two Supporters’ Shields while anchoring midfields featuring the likes of David Beckham and Steven Gerrard.


By then, Juninho says, the decision to move on was his own, made from a yearning to challenge himself, learn and grow with a different league with a different team.


So in December 2015 the Galaxy transferred him to Club Tijuana. And although his Liga MX stay lasted only a year, Juninho says he took plenty from that foray with him in his return this season to MLS and the Chicago Fire, who visit the LA Galaxy on Saturday (10:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE).


“When I left LA I was in a moment where I think I could learn a lot more,” Juninho said. “In Mexico ... they have different systems of the game and formation of lineups and the way they play is totally different and I got to know all that. I have all that with me. So I hope I can use all this experience at this club and help this club get to where we want to be.


Now something closer to a veteran at 28, his championship experience developed in LA is an asset to the rebuilt Fire. And it will be tested as he enters an entirely new scenario, facing the Galaxy as an opponent for the first time.


“It’s going to be an emotional game, for sure,” Juninho said. “I think about what I did there, the championships, the lifestyle, the fans, they’re still there. But it’s a different moment, different colors, so I have to defend my team the best I can on the field.


“It’s going to be strange for sure. Being in the visitor locker room and go to the opposite side of the field to warm up, those little details mean a lot.”


The LA team Chicago is preparing to face looks a lot different than when Juninho left 16 months ago. Bruce Arena is gone, the Galaxy have sputtered out of the gate and only four fellow starters from Juninho’s last match with the club are still on its roster.


“I think it’s a totally different team,” Juninho said. “I think the new coach Curt Onalfo is building up another team, another LA Galaxy face. It takes a little time to adjust and to get the real form of the team.”


Regarding any contact with LA about bringing him back, Juninho only said, “it’s not that simple,” citing the league’s allocation process and Chicago’s desire to move and snap him up.


Although apparently content in Chicago sharing a midfield with Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty, Juninho also didn’t completely shut the door on a potential return to LA someday.


“You never know,” he said. “I’m 28 years old and I’m going to do as much as I can for this club, but you never know, one day, you never know, could be back to LA and wear that jersey again, but at the moment I’m very happy here. I have a new opportunity in my life, I hope I can help them.”