Luciano Emilio, MLS’s 2007 Golden Boot winner and MVP, was back at RFK Stadium on Saturday night. Mired in last place and a season-long scoring funk, D.C. United would kill for a striker with the qualities of the Brazilian in his prime.
Nearing the end of a pro career that began in 1995, the 34-year-old is back in Washington to launch a youth initiative, the Luciano Emilio Brazilian Soccer Academy. The program, for boys and girls ages 4-17, will kick off Monday at 5 p.m. at Layhill Village Park in Montgomery County. (For details, you can reach his organization at firstname.lastname@example.org.)
Although Emilio has not retired, “I realize it is a good moment to spend time with the academy,” he said.
What has he been doing since a brief second term with United in 2010?
He bounced from Danubio in Uruguay to Toros Neza in Mexico’s second division and then to Olimpia in Honduras before landing at Gremio Catanduvense, a lower-tier club based in the northern reaches of Brazil’s Sao Paulo state.
It just happens to have one of the coolest crests around: a witch on a broom stick. Legend has it, those who live in Catanduva, a city of 110,000, are “bewitched and never leave again.” Silvo Salles Stadium is known as the “Witch’s Cauldron.”
(If only former Argentine star and one-time DCU target Juan Sebastian Veron, known as “La Brujita” or Little Witch, had ended up there too.)
Emilio played for Catanduvense from this January to June, serving in, of all things, a playmaking role.
Through the fall, he said he will concentrate on the academy and continue training on his own in hopes of resuming his career early next year.
“I want to keep playing because I am strong enough,” he said. “I take care of my body. I think I can play at a good level. I want to play in MLS again because I don’t want to move around the world anymore. I don’t know if I will get the opportunity, but I have the confidence to keep playing.”
Emilio has a green card for U.S. permanent residency. His wife and two daughters — one was born in Honduras, the other in the United States — will rejoin him in the Washington area from Brazil next month. He said he hopes to line up trials with MLS sides this offseason.
United, which is emphasizing a youth movement, is not in his future but the club is “in my heart forever,” said Emilio, who scored 41 goals in 87 regular season appearances between 2007 and ’09 before returning to Brazil. “I always wish the best for D.C. United.”