CARSON -- Juan Pablo Angel is training fully again with Chivas USA -- heading the ball and everything -- and could complete Major League Soccer's post-concussion protocol on Thursday, which would make him eligible to play this weekend.
The 36-year-old Colombian striker, who has missed five matches while dealing with concussion symptoms following a preseason collision with Portland Timbers defender Eric Brunner, on Tuesday said the last week “was a very good week,” that “this is an important 2-3 days, the next 2-3 days,” and that “I'm excited and hopeful everything goes to plan.”
Chivas (3-3-0) faces the Philadelphia Union (1-3-1) on Saturday night at Home Depot Center.
The Goats' attack has struggled without Angel, who scored seven goals in nine appearances after arriving in a mid-August trade from the Galaxy, scoring just four goals and losing three times by shutout. Alejandro Moreno, Cesar Romero and rookie Casey Townsend have split time atop a 4-2-3-1 alignment, and Miller Bolaños has played up front in a two-forward formation.
Chivas bolstered its frontline with the acquisition this week of fellow Colombian forward Jose Erick Correa, but he won't be in camp until later this week, perhaps not until next week.
Angel, when game-fit and healthy, is No. 1 on the depth chart.
“He seems to be coming along well,” head coach Robin Fraser said. “I'm sure he kept up with [fitness] pretty well, but I'm sure his game fitness won't be the same. But as long as he's healthy, that's the important thing. And the game fitness will come.”
Angel was hurt after knocking heads with Brunner in a March 1 Timbers tournament match in Portland, Ore. He finished the game, played 63 minutes in the preseason finale three days later against San Jose, then went the distance in the March 11 league opener against Houston.
He was feeling the effects of the concussion throughout, but they only manifested when he untensed his neck muscles when going up for a header. He has trained off and on since then but only began heading the ball in the past week or so.
His goal is that “I should be available for selection for the weekend,” but general manager Jose Domene said he was hoping the striker could play in Monday's MLS Reserve League game against Seattle at HDC. Angel just wants to get back on the field.
“To be honest with you, I don't remember a time in my career I've been out for that many games,” he said. “So it, obviously, has been extremely frustrating, but you have to understand the consequences of dealing with this type of injury. As frustrating as it's been, you've got to ensure things are in order for you not to have problems in the future.”
MORE ON INJURIES: Turns out Michael Lahoud's “knock” sustained in last week's reserve friendly against the Fullerton Rangers was related to his hamstring strain, and the winger acknowledged it was a “setback” and that the “smart” move would be not to push to be available for game against Philly. He's unlikely to play regardless.
Midfielder Peter Vagenas officially is “questionable” with a “rib contusion,” but he's not close to returning after suffering fractured ribs in the MLS Reserve League victory two weeks ago against the Galaxy.
New to the injury report is midfielder Ben Zemanski, who is “probable” with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee.
WORTH NOTING: Dan Kennedy (Yorba Linda/El Dorado HS and UC Santa Barbara), who on Monday won MLS's Player of the Week award for his efforts in last weekend's 1-0 victory at Toronto FC, is a finalist for the Save of the Week honor. He's up for one of his stops on Reds forward Danny Koevermans. Two other local finalists: Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando (Montclair/Montclair HS and UCLA) and New England's Matt Reis (Mission Viejo/Santa Margarita Catholic HS and UCLA). Online voting is through Thursday at 11:59 p.m. ... Seattle Sounders winger Steve Zakuani, who is working toward his return from last year's grotesque incident with Colorado's Brian Mullan that left his right leg shattered, tweeted Monday night that he will return to game action in next week's MLS Reserve League game against Chivas. Galaxy forward Landon Donovan told Zakuani via Twitter that he had hoped the Sounders star would play in Monday's L.A.-Seattle Reserve League game at HDC, a 1-0 Galaxy victory, and asked: “You close to being back?” Zakuani's response: “yeah, just need the match fitness. I'll play down there next week vs Chivas reserves!” He played 45 minutes in a scrimmage against Gonzaga University two weeks ago but has made no appearances in official games. Monday's game will begin at 11 a.m., likely in the Track and Field Stadium.