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Spotlight: Rafael

Young Designated Player tallies first MLS goal in first career start for United

In D.C. United's (1-2-1) fourth game of the 2013 season, Young Designated Player (DP) Rafael earned his first MLS start and rewarded Head Coach Ben Olsen with a game-tying goal - his first in the League - in the 22nd minute of today's match versus the Columbus Crew. The strike was a thing of beauty, too; after midfielder Chris Pontius flicked the ball on, Rafael out-muscled his defender with his back to goal, turned and blasted a half-volley from more than 35-yards-out. The Young DP stunned Columbus Crew goalkeeper Andy Gruenebaum, who was off his line, and the shot went low and in the right-hand corner. United would lose the game 2-1, but Rafael's goal provided a spark and a bright spot for the team to build upon for the next game.

"I saw the keeper out of his line and when I turned, I looked up and saw him," said Rafael through a translator. "I’ve been training all this week on my finishing, especially from outside of the box. I built up confidence and had space to move, but I figured I try it from there – why not?”

After inking a deal with United on Jan. 9, Rafael, 20, became the youngest current DP in MLS and the second-youngest DP signing to date. The target forward joined the Black-and-Red on loan from Brazilian Serie A club Bahia for one year after scoring 10 goals in 36 first-team appearances for the side. Rafael has represented his native country of Brazil at very high levels, most recently at the 2011 Pan-American games.