Emilio Goes Beyond United's Stated Goals

By Dan Steinberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Before he ever laid eyes on Luciano Emilio, Josh Gros had already been told what to expect. D.C. United had produced just one 15-goal scorer over the past seven seasons, but the coaches and front office officials with whom Gros spoke said they expected at least that many tallies from Emilio, their Brazilian acquisition.

Emilio had fixed the same number in his mind. "I thought that I could score plenty of goals, a minimum of 15," he said yesterday through an interpreter.

They all may have been too conservative. Emilio's latest offensive outburst -- four goals in his past two games -- has given the striker 18 with more than a month left in the regular season. He leads the league's scoring race by four goals, has already equaled the second-best goal-scoring campaign in franchise history and is just five back of Raul Diaz Arce's single-season mark. Over his past 15 games -- one half of an MLS season -- the 28-year-old has 16 goals. Yesterday, he became the first player in club history to earn MLS player of the week honors three times in a single season.

"He's as ruthless as anyone that I've ever played with," United midfielder Ben Olsen said. "He wants to score goals. That's what he's here for. And he does it, and he enjoys doing it."

The frequency with which the Brazilian has done so has led some -- including the ESPN crew that broadcast last Thursday's meeting with Chivas USA -- to wonder whether Emilio could be in line for a raise next season, in D.C. or elsewhere.

Emilio's 2007 guaranteed salary of $293,125 is already the highest on the team. His contract includes three more team-held option years. His agent, Alexander Solis, said any discussions about the future would not occur until after this season.

"I told Emilio to [have] a great year, and then we'll take it from there," Solis said. "I guess every player wants to do pretty well the first season, maybe entice them for next year, but nothing has been talked about yet."

United officials said they thoroughly expect Emilio to be back next season.

"Of course," Coach Tom Soehn said yesterday. "I mean, he's under contract with us. That's all that needs to be said. We don't worry about next year until everything's over."

For his part, Emilio -- who arrived in Washington conversant in Portuguese, Spanish and German and has begun conducting interviews partially in English -- said he would like to remain in Washington, but that he isn't yet thinking beyond the MLS season.

"My intention was to stay here and play," he said through an interpreter. "Obviously, like I said, right now I'm just concentrating on this year, but I feel comfortable here and I do want to come back. But we'll just talk at the end of the season with the club."

Apart from his club future, recent media reports from Honduras, where Emilio spent more than four successful years, have indicated that the Honduran national team might be interested in his services. While aware of those reports, Emilio said no one from the Honduran soccer federation has yet contacted him, and that he isn't sure whether he would be interested regardless.

"I can't really give you an answer right now, because I'm not thinking about that right now," he said through the interpreter.

In the meantime, Emilio keeps finding the back of the net for United, which needs only a tie against Real Salt Lake tonight to clinch a spot in the MLS playoffs. His offensive success, of course, depends on the players around him; his second tally in Sunday's win over the New England Revolution came off a brilliant run from Brian Carroll. But after Emilio's clinical finish, he was once again swooping around the field, flashing his four-lane grin.

"I've never seen a guy so happy after he scores goals," Olsen said. "In the shower, after he scores two goals, he's singing and dancing. He knows that, he admits it: He loves to score goals."

United notes: Four members of Real Salt Lake -- defender Eddie Pope, midfielder Carey Talley, goalkeeper Nick Rimando and forward Alecko Eskandarian -- won a combined six MLS championships while playing for United. Pope will be honored before the game. . . . Gros, who missed four games with what was eventually diagnosed as migraines, said he suffered no ill effects from playing 90 minutes on Sunday, and would be available tonight.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company