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Saturday, August 20, 2011
CHIVAS USA: Angel era begins for Goats

By Scott French

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.

THE OPPONENT



COLORADO RAPIDS
Head coach

Three key players

Current form/prospects

Local connections

Missing

THE GAME

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