When Paulo Araujo Jr. was first signed by Real Salt Lake over a year ago, he made an immediate impact for the club. His first appearance was made at Rio Tinto Stadium during a CONCACAF Champions League group stage match against fellow MLS team Toronto FC. He was subbed in late in the match with everything to prove. He scored a goal minutes after coming on to complete a 4-1 thumping of Toronto.
The blooming forward was pretty unknown to RSL fans upon being brought in on loan by the Salt Lake side from the second tier of North American soccer. He was supposedly a good forward capable of scoring in the second division. Would that all-star success translate to his MLS play? The answer: Yes!
His fantastic form continued into the next season, 2011. During Real’s home opener against budding rivals LA Galaxy, Paulo was able to draw and PK that was scored by Javier Morales and score a goal in another 4-1 scoreline. At this point the forward’s last name had unofficially been changed from Araujo to Junior by endearing fans. The speedy youngster was everything a fan could ask for. He was a lightning quick forward with a keen talent of making back-post runs and finishing. The young forward had everything going for him. He was always the obvious choice as the third-string forward behind Alvaro Saborio and Fabian Espindola.
Everything changed for Paulo after being injured for a big part of the 2011 season and never truly coming back to full form. His speed had been lost and he didn’t play as quickly or with enough urgency to really shine in the RSL XI.
Throughout the beginning of this season, the Brazilian native continued to struggle as he had during most of the 2011 season. He scored one goal on penalty kick against brand new expansion side Montreal. After several more months that must have been quite frustrating for Paulo Junior he was given news that he was to be loaned back out to the second division. This was an alert of sorts for Paulo. Almost a threat. This was his last chance. If he did well on the short-term loan, learned his lesson, and made an impact on Real Salt Lake similar to the one he made upon his first arrival, he would stay and earn some minutes. If he didn’t, we wouldn’t be seeing him in claret and cobalt much longer.
Paulo’s first match back from the loan spell was just yesterday against the Vancouver Whitecaps. Leading up to the game head coach Jason Kreis said that he’d been very impressed with Junior’s performance since returning to Salt Lake City. I am almost positive that nearly every Real fan let out an enormous sigh of relief at the moment that Paulo Jr. pulled a crafty move to round a Whitecaps defender and then sent in a lethal cross that landed right on the head of Nat Borchers, who directed the ball down into the back corner of the netting. It was Paulo Junior’s first assist of the season. Hopefully his short and promising performance shows that Paulo is really back for good. I can only feverishly hope that this assist of his ramps up to his production of more goals and assists later this season! If Paulo Jr. continues to perform and improve he could regain his title as one of the most exciting forwards to watch in MLS!
Good luck Paulo!!!
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