Position: Winger and Attacking Midfielder
2021 League Games: 15 matches at 1,156 minutes. Started 13, subbed in twice. 4 goals, 3 assists.
What Went Right in 2021
For one to truly get an idea of Luiz Araujo’s 2021, it must be noted that the young Brazilian had just helped his former side Lille win both the Ligue 1 title and the Trophée des Champions just a short time prior to joining the Five Stripes. In fact, he was a starter in the match against PSG that saw Lille lift the trophy just before to his move to the United States. And then almost as quickly as he changed out of his Lille jersey, he was on a jet bound for the Deep South.
Luiz Araujo’s arrival during the summer 2021 transfer window was somewhat unexpected. It was a bit of a swing for the fences by Darren Eales and Carlos Bocanegra; a duo who had made a bit of a name by bringing in relatively unknown (outside of South America) South American talent. But Araujo had made the leap straight from Brazil over to Europe, and he was hellbent on coming to MLS to make a name for himself in North America. It didn’t take long to realize the caliber of player that Atlanta United had signed, especially when he donned his chef’s jacket.
This was the culmination of a couple of games of sheer highlight reel effort. The man arrived in Atlanta with what felt like a chip on his shoulder, and it quickly became obvious that he was an MVP-caliber player. It was also around this point in the season that Atlanta United started to find its swagger again, and every player on the field was out there having fun. The attacking soccer was back, the goals were piling up, and Araujo was causing folks at Mercedes-Benz Stadium to echo the Chris Berman “whoop” every time he trick-sticked someone into looking like a U-12 player.
As much as Araujo cooked up during his half-season, however, it felt like the initial surprise was handled by opposing teams more succinctly as the year progressed. His explosiveness was still a factor, but the team didn’t fully grasp the chemistry necessary to exploit their attacking prowess to its full potential. Araujo was both a distinct talent and an absolute bargain for the Five Stripes, but the team was just going through too many changes to make the most of his arrival. His 4 goals and 3 assists were intriguing, however, because along with his other stats he has been more productive (stats per minutes played) on paper in his short time in Atlanta than our old pal Miggy. It’s also worth remembering that Miguel Almirón was working with a well-oiled machine during his time, while Luiz Araujo was the oil added at just the right moment to make the flavor pop again. This is what makes Araujo so curious as an Atlanta player; if Gonzalo Pineda can unlock his true potential as a playmaker in 2022, there aren’t many defenses that will be able to stop him.
And of course, what better nickname for a Brazilian who loves steakhouses and who also dices defenses than the Brazilian Chef?
2022 Season Outlook
If Atlanta United wishes to have the season in 2022 that its talent reflects, it needs to be led by Luiz Araujo. He needs to be an engine through the middle and right wing that keeps defenses guessing similar to how he did when he first arrived in MLS. Coupled with the rest of Atlanta’s attacking talent and a full offseason to develop that chemistry, he could easily become one of Atlanta United’s most memorable players. His preseason up to this writing has been promising, as he typically shows out as one of the most hardworking players on the pitch. He is flashy with his footwork, moves the ball forward, and even on his bad days he becomes a force to be reckoned with defensively. Pineda has also shown some experimentation with him through the middle and even on the left wing, so Araujo’s unpredictability could become even stronger through this coming season. Supporters could be in for one of the most highlight reel-worthy attacks in MLS with Araujo, Josef, and Moreno all finally syncing.