CHIVAS USA: Angel era begins for Goats
Chivas USA has had more prominent stars -- Mexican legends Claudio Suarez and Ramon Ramirez finished their careers for the Rojiblancos -- but it's fair to say L.A.'s No. 2 club has never had a difference-maker like this before.Juan Pablo Angel, widely thought the best striker in Major League Soccer history, makes his Goats debut Saturday evening at Colorado after arriving this week in an around-the-corner trade with the Galaxy.
Chivas hopes he's the piece they've been looking for, the finisher who can cap off all that possession that's gone to waste as often as, or more often than, it has led to chances and goals.
That's what the Galaxy was hoping for, too, but the tall Colombian never found a rhythm in L.A.'s system and was dumped so incoming Irish striker Robbie Keane could fill one of three Designated Player slots. Their archrivals' loss is Chivas' gain.
And head coach Robin Fraser is confident Angel will fit in here.
“I think so. I really do ...,” Fraser said. “First and foremost, look at his professionalism. You look at where he's played and what he's done, his age, and you watch him in training, and his movement is so sharp, because he understands to be a good player, it's about being switched on, it's about being engaged, it's about training at game speed. Just watching him for a couple of days, it's very apparent that he understands this, and that's how he trains, and that's how he intends to go about his business.”
Fraser had not committed to starting Angel in Colorado, but expectations are that he'll lineup next to Alejandro Moreno up top. The next two forwards in the pecking order -- Justin Braun (out with an abdominal strain) and Marcos Mondaini (dealing with an eye injury, but available) -- aren't at full strength.
Angel's addition has boosted confidence in what's usually a pretty confident camp. The Goats (7-8-9) have lost just once in seven games since June 25 -- that a 1-0 decision in triple-digit heat in Dallas -- and scored three times in two of the past four matches. They also have been shut out three times in the last five, two of them 0-0 draws.
Adding a striker of Angel's ability, the logic goes, should trim down on shutout losses and ties.
“When a quality player's available, you grab it,” said midfielder Simon Elliott, who surrendered his No. 9 jersey to Angel (and will now wear No. 7). “He's scored goals where he's been, pretty much. We've only had him in for a couple days, but he looks sharp, he looks involved. He knows what he's doing. I think he's going to help the team.”
WORTH NOTING: Colorado captured the first meeting, on March 26, as Quincy Amarikwa tallied in a 1-0 victory. Goats captain Jimmy Conrad suffered what this week proved to be a career-ending concussion in the game, when Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens hit the veteran defender in the head as he tried to punch away a cross. Conrad, who never returned to the field in earnest afterward, officially announced his retirement Thursday and joined the Chivas staff. ... Colorado leads the all-time series, 9-5-4, and has won the last four meetings by a combined 9-0 tally. ... The Rapids are coming off a 3-2 home victory over El Salvador's Isidro Metapan in their opener in the CONCACAF Champions League. Colorado on Tuesday visits Honduras' Real Espaņa in their second Group B match. ... Nick LaBrocca and Zarek Valentin will be suspended with their next yellow cards. Four Rapids are in the same situation: Caleb Folan, Jeff Larentowicz, Drew Moor and Wells Thompson.
MISSING: Braun is out with an abdominal strain.
- Gary Smith, who played as midfielder in English soccer's lower divisions before beginning his coaching career at Wimbledon, has built the Rapids into one of MLS's fastest and most dangerous sides and guiding them to the MLS Cup title last November.
Three key players
- Speedy Jamaican forward Omar Cummings has burst to the forefront the past two seasons, totaling 22 goals and 15 assists, and he's hit stride again after an injury-plagued start to 2011.
- Gambian winger Sanna Nyassi stepped up with a hat trick and then scored again after Conor Casey's season ended with a snapped Achilles' tendon.
- Larentowicz has been among the league's better central midfielders for several years, but he took a big step forward when paired with Pablo Mastroeni following last year's trade from New England.
- After several starts and stops, the reigning MLS Cup champs are gaining steam, winning their last three (over Philadelphia, Columbus and San Jose) and going 4-0-1 the past month. The key is Cummings' rounding into form and Nyassi's imprint after Casey went down, but the Rapids also have benefited from Brian Mullan's play since returning from a long suspension and their strength in central midfield and at the back.
- Defender Marvell Wynne, from Poway in San Diego County, was an All-American at UCLA. ... Jamaican defender Tyrone Marshall was a starter for both of the Galaxy's MLS Cup champions; he played 139 league games for L.A. from 2002 through 2007. ... Mullan began his MLS career with the Galaxy, playing in 39 league games in 2001-02. ... Larentowicz was born in Pasadena (but raised near Philadelphia).
- Casey (torn Achilles) and defender Anthony Wallace (sprained knee) are out. ... Midfielder Jamie Smith (calf and hamstring strains) is questionable. ... Mullan (sprained ankle) and goalkeeper Matt Pickens (groin strain) are probable.
At DSG Park (Commerce City, Colo.), 6 p.m.
TV: KWHY/Channel 22 and KDOC/Channel 56
Radio: W Radio (XEWW/690, Spanish), 7 p.m.
Referee: Elias Bazakos