24 Under 24 (2012): #6 Juninho (IMAGE)
Gabriel de los Rios / MLSsoccer.com

24 Under 24: #6 Juninho, LA Galaxy

6. Juninho

Pos: M | LA Galaxy | Age: 23

It’s been some progression for Juninho. He went from an unknown Brazilian loanee to rising up up the 24 Under 24 ranks from No. 19 (2010), to No. 14 (2011) and now all the way to No. 6. This year some have actually busted out the “MVP candidate” label for the diminutive but supremely efficient center-mid who does it all for the Galaxy: He scores, he wins balls, he connects passes. The tag of “best two-way midfielder in MLS” isn’t so far-fetched.

What the TDs and coaches like: “An honest box-to-box midfielder, who is capable of big moments … He links well and is positionally aware … He seems more mature at his age … Very intelligent player. He really understands where danger is and how to snuff it out and whether he needs to close something or sit back … Has a very good sense of the game, good awareness around him … Great vision and technical ability … He knows how to play the game and fit in with other players … And he’s got a little bit of bite to him and that’s a plus for him … He seems really smart on plays, specifically his positioning … He gets into supporting positions and then can turn to shoot …He’s one of those guys when he gets inside the 35 you have to step up … He’s crushed some bombs from distance … Very good man-to-man defender, intelligent, hardworking and always finds a way to make a difference … When he needs to be a defensive presence, he is very much that, when he needs to be an attacking presence he can do that … As good a two-way midfielder as there is in this league … Plays on a very talented team and does not get all the headlines that he deserves.”

Where TDs and coaches want improvement: Apparently nowhere. Either other coaches and TDs we speaked to are so enamored by Juninho that they can’t see the negative, or he has really become the perfect midfielder.

Opta Says: Juninho has more than 100 more successful passes in MLS in 2012 than any other player younger than 24 (1,080 total).

Tale of the Tape
Last Year in 24U24: #14
Fan Ranking: #6
Castrol Index (as of 9/14/12): #76

2012 Stats
Matches played: 26
Matches started: 24
Goals: 5
Assists: 3

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