With D.C. United forward Luciano Emilio's goal scoring already translating well to MLS, he's working on the rest of his life.
Emilio, a Brazilian already fluent in Portuguese, Spanish and German, surprised teammate Bobby Boswell this week while sorting out paperwork with team officials. Expecting merely a "hello" or "goodbye," the defender Boswell overheard Emilio speak a whole sentence in English.
"Good," Boswell told Emilio. "You're getting better."
Though the Boswell already had seen Emilo enjoying himself with United since his signing Jan. 16, he knows his teammate is still trying to adapt to American culture.
Emilio started taking English classes this week, but he certainly wasn't struggling beforehand. With United, which plays host to Colorado tonight, he has three goals in his past two games and a team-high six in league play this season.
"The language hasn't been as much as an obstacle as I thought it would," Emilio said through an interpreter. "I've been through various countries where I had to pick up the language. I know there is an adjustment period, but I've taken it all in stride."
Emilio, born in Ilha Solteira, Brazil, has his share of practice with language barriers and varying styles of play. After two years with secondary teams in Brazil, he did not get any offers to play with his home nation's premier teams. So at age 18, he started a four-year stint in Germany in which he spent some time in Bundesliga for FC Koln. He then returned to Brazil for a year with Union Barbarense before competing in Honduras from 2002 to 2004 and Mexico from 2005 to 2006.
"When you go and play outside of the country, you start to earn a certain salary," Emilio said. "The dream is always there, and the thought is always there to play for a big team. But the reality is something else. You have to figure it's tough to go in and play for one of the big teams. The opportunity isn't there, and it's not as readily available as you'd think."
With United, Emilio has his goals but is still learning the American style of play, which is more physical than in Latin America. His teammates are helping him along; defender Josh Gros and midfielder Ben Olsen are among those have been giving him more opportunities to finish.
Emilo also benefits from having a teammate from Brazil in forward Fred and a coach with German ancestry in Tom Soehn.
"The language factor is important," Fred said through an interpreter. "We understand each other well, especially when English is an obstacle for us. It allows us to communicate better and try to translate that to better performances on the field."
Emilio has had a few impressive performances this year. Not only does he have three of United's four goals over the past two games, but he also had three in two games against Honduras' CD Olimpia in the Champions' Cup quarterfinals to open the 2007 schedule. Emilio had starred with Olimpia, where he won a scoring title in 2004.
But Emilio admits he has missed on several opportunities, including on a header against Chicago on June 16. Those, though, are becoming rarer.
"Everybody talked about Luciano not scoring, and a lot of the reason was we weren't setting him up to be successful," Soehn said. "It's a direct relation to how we played. We stretched the field and created more space for him. He's a goal scorer. He makes a living in the box. We need to start giving him some service."
And when that happens, Boswell sees an unorthodox player who displays various international styles. That makes sense considering Emilio has played everywhere from XV de Piracicaba at age 16 to Queretaro the season before joining United.
"Sometimes he'll turn you real quick," Boswell said. "Sometimes he'll post up on you. But he's quick enough to turn you. He has more than one dimension. It's tough to play against someone like that. With some players, you just try to body him up. With him, if you body him up, he can turn and beat you."