New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke had little good to say about his team after suffering a 3-1 defeat at the hands of the New England Revolution.
One bright spot, however, was the play of his goal scorer Juninho.
After featuring in limited minutes for the team over the course of their first three preseason matches, the Brazilian playmaker dazzled in his 45 minutes of work, earning New York an early lead heading into the half.
“First half watching Juninho was a pleasure to watch,” Petke said.
And it wasn’t just his ability to read the play, his distribution or the various strengths displayed on the offensive end that earned him plaudits. Juninho excelled on both sides of the ball; something the Red Bulls hope lasts all season long.
“Forget what he does with the ball,” Petke explained. “His awareness defensively, his movement defensively, to close down space, to be the first to the ball, then getting hold of the ball, his vision, starting our attacks, linking up with Thierry (Henry), (Fabian) Espindola and (Tim) Cahill … it was nice to watch.”
The icing on the cake may have been a chance gone awry. the 38 year old midfielder has made his name on free kick situations. A near 30 yard blast went just wide of net shortly after his first goal highlighting why dead balls are his forte.
“That freekick at the end was a little taste for people to watch,” Petke said. “It was nice.”
“Juninho is an elite player,” Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles observed. “The leadership and experience he brings on the field, you could see in the first half. He dictates the play, he brings a kind of steadiness that elite players bring and I think he will be great for us in the future.”