The LA Galaxy's Samuel is marked by a Club Tijuana defender prior to a corner kick in their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal match on March 12, 2014, in Carson, California. (Photo: German Alegria)
CARSON, California – As it relates to a promising Brazilian forward, La Liga's loss could turn out to be the LA Galaxy's gain.
Samuel, on loan from Fluminense, scored the only goal in the Major League Soccer (MLS) side’s 1-0 win over visiting Club Tijuana on Wednesday in the first leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series.
"I'm glad to be a part of this team," said Samuel, who was reportedly close to being transferred to Spain’s Espanyol during the summer, but a price could not be agreed upon.
The 23-year-old is taking part in his second continental club championship after appearing in eight games for Fluminense during the 2013 Copa Libertadores. He said that competing in that tournament has helped him prepare for life in MLS.
"In the Copa Libertadores, the pace is similar," noted Samuel. "There's pressure all the time. It definitely was a very good experience for me."
After making his MLS debut in a 77-minute outing against Real Salt Lake on Saturday, Samuel netted his first goal four days later in CONCACAF play.
"Samuel has done very well," Galaxy coach Bruce Arena commented. "I think he's adjusted well. He's very opportunistic. He has a good nose for the goal and he's going to get better as he begins to understand our team and our league better."
Samuel joined the Galaxy on a recommendation from Juninho, one of four Brazilians at the club.
"I really wanted him here because I know him very well," Juninho said. "We know how dedicated he is to the team. He knows what he should do, what his responsibilities are."
Those responsibilities include adjusting to a distinct approach to soccer in the United States.
"It's completely different," expressed Samuel. "Soccer in Brazil involves a lot of touches and the ball goes from here to there. Here, there's physical contact every minute. Sometimes there are very hard tackles."
Nevertheless, playing in MLS offers long-term benefits. "I'm very happy because it's going to be a learning experience," he concluded. "What I learn in the United States is going to help me become stronger elsewhere."