Juan Pablo Angel processes trade
CARSON, Calif. -- It's been a dizzying few days for Major League Soccer's premier goal-scorer, but Juan Pablo Angel is starting to find his balance, embracing a new challenge after the old one didn't go his way.
The Colombian striker's move to Chivas USA from the Los Angeles Galaxy was made official Wednesday, and Angel said all the right things after completing his second training session with the Goats a couple of hours later. That he's "been welcomed with open arms," that the players and coaching staff is "very good" and "work hard," that he wants "to be able to help."
And he said he's still trying to make sense of what just happened.
Angel, who in the past five seasons has led the MLS with 61 regular-season goals, was the Galaxy's star striker one moment and in the next forced out, sent to the hated, cross-stadium rivals, all because of an MLS policy that exists nowhere else on earth.
The Galaxy signed Irish forward Robbie Keane last week, and to free up one of three Designated Player slots each MLS club may fill (for high-salaried stars), they had to deal away either Angel, Landon Donovan or David Beckham. It wasn't a difficult decision, and it wasn't easy for Angel.
Scott French covers the Southern California soccer scene and beyond for ESPNLA.com.
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"To be honest with you, the last five or six days has been a lot of things going through my head, a lot of information," Angel said. "You just want to get over it, try to adjust to everything as soon as possible. Because it's not easy. It's not one of those you deal with right away. It takes a little time.
"I'm just trying to process everything as quick as I can and be able to help this team."
Angel, who hopes to make his club debut Saturday evening at Colorado, could be the catalyst that prods Chivas (7-8-9) from battling for a playoff berth -- a big step forward after a last-in-the-West finish a year ago -- to contending for the title, and the Goats are giddy that he's fallen into their lap.
"What a great situation for us. It really is," coach Robin Fraser said. "I think it was a bit of a shock for Juan, but certainly we were elated at the opportunity to get him. ... He epitomizes what we want to do here. He's about hard work, he's about the team, he's going to offer us so much in terms of not just his ability on the field, but I think his experience having been in very high-pressure situations, I think his ability to help others around him will become apparent."
The deal was a no-brainer for Chivas, which had been courting forwards in South America and just added French midfielder Laurent Courtois and Brazilian defender David Junior Lopes to its roster before MLS's summer transfer window closed Sunday. They gave up only a third-round selection in next year's supplemental draft, and the Galaxy is paying a significant portion of Angel's salary, although neither team would discuss the economic component to the deal.
A Chivas USA source said that Angel will not count as a Designated Player, which means the Goats' financial stake is less than a prorated portion of the $335,000 DP figure -- believed to be around $100,000. Angel's contract pays $1 million in salary and $1.25 million in guaranteed compensation.
Angel, who has been a consistent goal-scorer in Colombia (at Atletico Nacional), Argentina (at River Plate), England (with Aston Villa) and in MLS with the New York Red Bulls, never found chemistry in the Galaxy's attack, and the three goals he netted in 22 appearances fell far short of expectations when he joined L.A. during the offseason.
"It didn't work. I wish the season would have been different," he said. "I came here with a lot of enthusiasm, full of expectations, and it didn't work. I certainly tried, but I couldn't find my best form on the field. Fortunately, the team was always winning, getting results, was top of the league. So in a way, that minimized (the impact), but I was never happy with the way I played.
"I always put pressure on myself, I know that things weren't going well. I came here with expectations. You know people expect you to do the same things that you've been doing throughout your career, and it didn't work out the way I expected."
The Galaxy are 13-3-9 and atop the Supporters' Shield standings, but Angel's inability to be the finisher they needed informed the move to sign Keane, who was acquired in a transfer from English Premier League club Tottenham. Keane received his P-1 visa Wednesday, will train for the first time with the Galaxy on Friday and is expected to make his MLS debut Saturday night against San Jose at Home Depot Center.
Galaxy coach Bruce Arena on Tuesday paid tribute to Angel for making "us a better team. He really did. I love him as a person and a player."
Said Galaxy captain Donovan: "Everybody knows his capabilities and his qualities. For whatever reason, it wasn't working out here. Perhaps the style of play didn't mesh, but I have no doubt he's going to be successful (with Chivas)."
Angel's new teammates agree.
"He automatically brought the level up higher here," back-line leader Heath Pearce said. "We're not concerned with how many goals he has or hasn't scored prior to coming here, we're just excited to have him, and we know he can be beneficial for us."
"It's an important piece for us," said Venezuelan forward Alejandro Moreno, Angel's likely partner up top for Chivas. "It's a guy that's a proven goal scorer, a guy with clean touches on the ball and clear ideas on the field. ... Of course, he can be (a difference-maker). I think he has been a difference-maker in this league. The expectations are high from us, and I think they're high for him as well.
"Hopefully, he can come through, and, hopefully, we can allow him to exploit all of his abilities and all of his skills and make sure we take advantage of everything he has to offer."
Angel hopes he can oblige them. And embracing the challenge, he says, is the best way to get through the turmoil of the past few days.
"It's very unusual to go through this whole process," he said, "being in one locker room and the next day to be in another one, kind of crossing paths with the people you're working with (with the Galaxy) the whole year. The whole thing is very strange. Hopefully, we get to put everything together, I get to fit on the team, get to find the rhythm, get to know (my teammates) quick and get used to the system, which obviously takes a little bit of time.
"Unfortunately, there is no time. There are 10 important games left in the season for this team, and I want to be able to help."
Scott French covers soccer for ESPNLosAngeles.com.