Atlanta United

Have Atlanta United found their next icon in Luiz Araujo?

Chris Smith
Despite not scoring, Luiz Araujo has made an exciting start to life with Atlanta United.
Despite not scoring, Luiz Araujo has made an exciting start to life with Atlanta United. / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports

Luiz Araujo has been a breath of fresh air for Atlanta United, and it's only a matter of time before the rest of MLS is on high alert to him.

Sure, the Brazilian is yet to register his first goal or assist for the Five Stripes, but it's not for the want of trying.

"I hope I can get on the scoresheet to show who I am in this league," Araujo said ahead of Friday's 3-0 win over rivals Orlando City.

Araujo almost did just that, rattling the post with a thunderous effort from distance early in that match, while he's averaged a team-high 3.61 shots per 90 minutes since arriving on a $9.5m deal from Lille.

But it doesn't always take goals and assists to prove your worth.

Araujo has dazzled supporters with his dynamic dribbling, precision long-range passing and moments of flair.

Against Orlando, Araujo created no fewer than three chances, with only Ezequiel Barco and Brooks Lennon (4 each) laying on more in a fine team performance. The 25-year-old routinely set about making fools of Orlando defenders with nutmegs and flicks, while adding genuine attacking thrust to Atlanta's performance. His movement to both find and create space and link up with Barco and Marcelino Moreno was something Orlando just couldn't live with.

Slowly but surely, Araujo is acclimating to the unique surroundings of Major League Soccer and, according to Atlanta head coach Gonzalo Pineda, it's only a matter of time until the Brazilian gets among the goals.

"I feel that at times, Luiz [Araújo] is starting to adapt to the league, his teammates, the opponents, the pace of the league, even the turf, which are things, little nuances that mean we are still not seeing his maximum potential," Pineda told reporters after Friday's match.

"What we saw was a very dangerous player, an attacking player that sometimes even when he does not touch the ball, he creates many gaps for his teammates, and that is what I love about Luiz. He is always on the move, and he is always trying to go for a goal."

"I love what Luiz (Araujo) brings to the team," added compatriot Matheus Rossetto.

Thanks to the Designated Player Rule, the pressure is arguably higher for MLS clubs to get their big signings right than in any other league. Fail on a DP and you could be left with a serious shortage of goals and very little budget and breathing space on your roster to find solutions. But it's hard to see Atlanta having that problem here.

Speaking on the Fox Sports broadcast for Friday's game, former USMNT midfielder Maurice Edu commented that Araujo could be an "exciting player for MLS" if he finds his best form. Going one step further, it's easy to see how he could be an MVP contender in the coming seasons. It's just a matter of getting off the mark.

"Today, he had a fantastic shot that we all saw together, and he saw the replay and was upset that it did not go in, but I told him that it is coming. When he scores the first one, I am sure many more will come," said Pineda on Friday.

Upon his arrival in Atlanta, Araujo stated his aim with the club was to win MLS Cup.

"The main reason I'm here is because I'd like to win the league," he said. "It's something I've enjoyed my whole life, to be a champion, so I'm looking forward to doing that here."

Barco is finally showing the form the Five Stripes faithful have been waiting for ever since his arrival in 2018. Josef Martinez is quickly returning to his pre-ACL form as his fitness improves. And Moreno is looking more effective and confident in an Atlanta United shirt with every passing game.

It's been a tough couple of years, but Atlanta United are on the up. If they're to reach the playoffs and more this season and continue to compete thereafter, Araujo will almost certainly have to play a key part in that. And if he does, MVP awards and the sort of legendary status only afforded to Martinez and Miguel Almiron in these parts await.