Well-traveled Jlio Csar eyes new era at KC

Posted: March 7, 2011, 3:37 pm

(Courtesy of Major League Soccer - mlssoccer.com)

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Sporting Kansas City honed in on experience with their first international signing of the offseason.

Five days before their season kicks off against Chivas USA on March 19, Kansas City officially announced the signing of veteran Brazilian defender Júlio César. The 32-year-old center back has been training with the team since the beginning of preseason and will be available for selection against the Goats.

After starting his career in Honduras as a 17-year-old with Marathón, Júlio César brings a resume highlighted by stints at Real Madrid and AC Milan along with other stops in Spain, Portugal, Austria, England, Mexico, Greece, Hungary and Turkey before landing with Sporting.

"I've played in many leagues, European and others," Júlio César said through a translator. "I see the MLS as a league that is going to grow a tremendous amount. Even five years ago, the league was much different than it is today. It was something I thought about for a while and made the decision that this was where I wanted to be."

Though he is still working toward 100 percent fitness, Júlio César should bring plenty of knowledge and guidance to a center back core that currently includes Shavar Thomas, Matt Besler and rookie Mike Jones.

Still, he won't be relied on to push the defensive buttons from the very start of the season. With 34 games to cover and plenty of options to choose from, manager Peter Vermes said he would give Júlio César however much time was needed to get his feet underneath him.

"His experience and the places that he's played, they speak for themselves," Vermes said. "Having him be a part of this team with his experience is going to be a big help. It's going to take a little time. You can't expect a guy to all of a sudden come in and take over the show."

Realistically, Vermes wasn't even sure Júlio César would make the roster when he began training with the team in January.

With the 6-foot-1 defender returning from an injury, Vermes told reporters he needed to be sure the veteran could come in and contribute in a league renowned for its physical nature and athleticism before offering a contract.

In the end, Vermes saw enough to bring the Brazilian into the fold.

"I'm a little lucky in that I played that position, and I know the nuances of that position," Vermes said. "Things that you don't necessarily see when you are watching the game that you really have to pay attention to. He just has those. He also brings a real calmness to the team when he's out on the field and on the ball."

For his part, Júlio César said he believes he still has the physical capabilities to compete in MLS and also highlighted his ability to help nurture the club's young defensive talent.

In Sporting, he also said he has found the perfect club and ideal situation in which to take the next step in his career.

"I chose Kansas City because of the project," Júlio César said. " I like what I see here with the rebranding, the new stadium. It's an exciting time to be a part of the team."