CHESTER, Pa. -- It took just 10 minutes for Jose Kleberson to make his mark on the Union.
Trailing by one goal to Toronto FC on Saturday at PPL Park, and with his club dominating possession, Kleberson made his Union debut, entering the contest for Ray Gaddis in the 79th minute.
Immediately, his creative presence was felt.
“It’s very cool but very different,” Kleberson said through Leo Fernandes, his translator, after the Union's 1-1 draw with Toronto FC (see story). “I was happy to get in and contribute in getting the tie.
“It was a great environment and atmosphere. I enjoyed the Union chants and helped us tie the game. Hopefully next time we can get them a victory.”
Right off the bench and in the 87th minute, an Antoine Hoppenot cross deflected off the head of a Toronto defender and to Kleberson at the top of the box. The Brazilian, acquired in March for Freddy Adu, headed the ball to himself and fired it in on goal. The ball redirected off a defender’s leg and nearly beat Joe Bendik to the near post.
But Kleberson wasn’t done. Shortly after Jack McInerney tied the game in stoppage time, Kleberson poached a waist-high ball out of the air at midfield. With his left foot, he hit a first-time ball upfield, springing Hoppenot on a breakaway. With the game on the line, Hoppenot’s shot drove right into Bendik, keeping Kleberson out of the box score.
“It felt good, I would have liked to help even more if that was possible,” Kleberson said. “The moment I went in, the game was physical and tough. As time goes on I know I’ll be able to help a lot.”
Kleberson’s teammates were impressed by the midfielder’s debut.
“He came on with 10 minutes to go and created two chances -- the one the goalkeeper tapped on the post and the one that sent Antoine in on a breakaway,” Sheanon Williams said. “In 10 minutes you create two chances in a game that needed some creativity, I thought he did well. We’re going to see more of the same when he gets additional minutes.
“He’s a good player and a good guy. It’s probably not easy coming to the states from Brazil, but it seems like he’s adapting well. We expect good things out of him.”
With an impressive debut in limited time, Kleberson should see more playing time in a Union midfield that desperately lacks creativity and high-end skill. But despite deserving it, whether he will see that time remains to be seen.
“It depends on how the game goes and when the coach thinks he needs me,” Kleberson said. “It depends on a lot of things.”
Even though coach John Hackworth has liked what he’s seen from the newcomer, he’s enjoyed Kleberson’s professionalism even more.
“Kleberson is one of the best pros I’ve been around in the short time I’ve been around him,” Hackworth said. “He knows to come to work every single day, do everything you can as a player to be selected.”