Sandy • Real Salt Lake coach Jason Kreis knew immediately that Paulo Junior, with his quickness and ability on the ball, had the potential to become something special. It took one workout to prove that.
As Saturday night turned into a disaster movie for the L.A. Galaxy, a joyous record crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium witnessed a few of those skills. In his first start of the season, the 21-year-old Brazilian, whose full name is Paulo Morais de Araujo Junior, scored a goal, assisted on another and set up a third in a 4-1 rout.
"I was so happy to help the team win the match," said Paulo Junior through an interpreter. "I was so happy to play the way I played."
Kreis was also happy with his forward's achievements. However, the RSL coach also tempered his praise.
"He was good. Really, really good when he had the ball," Kreis said. "Tonight in the first half he was dangerous every time he touched the ball. Obviously, he made a lot of things happen. Defensively, I wasn't too pleased."
On a team that has so many good attacking forwards Fabian Espindola, Arturo Alvarez and Alvaro Saborio, who was away on international duty with Costa Rica Paulo Junior's defensive effort might be what keeps him off the field.
"I talked to him at halftime," Kreis said. "He made a couple good defensive tackles for us, which is important."
Paulo Junior made his presence felt immediately, assisting on Andy Williams' goal with just 1 minute, 24 seconds gone off the game clock.
About eight minutes later, the ball found Paulo Junior alone in the 18-yard box. As Galaxy players screamed for an offsides call, L.A. goalie Josh Saunders tackled the Brazilian and referee Jair Marrufo awarded RSL a penalty kick. Javier Morales deftly beat Saunders to give Salt Lake a shocking 2-0 lead.
Espindola set up Paulo Junior for a relatively easy goal in the 68th minute to make the score 4-0.
"We like him," Morales said a tad understatedly.
As for how Paulo Junior felt, the word "happy" popped up quite a bit.
• In his first start for RSL, Paulo Junior scores a goal, assists on another and sets up a third.
• He plays 77 minutes, his longest stint of the season.
• His pass in the second minute helps set up RSL's opening goal.