Chivas USA had to do without its new arrival from New York -- Juan Agudelo is off with the U.S. national team in Florida -- but there's another Red Bulls veteran on the Goats' roster, and he made himself quite at home Wednesday night.
Juan Pablo Angel, New York's all-time goals leader, returned to Red Bull Arena for the first time since he departed the Red Bulls after the 2010 season, received a warm reception from the fans, then did his best to make their lives miserable.
His best performance of the season was rewarded with a spectacular goal at the start of the first half, and although Chivas couldn't turn it into three points, a 1-1 draw was a rather satisfying result.
The Goats' attack had spark, their defending was mostly exceptional, and had they done a better job holding onto the ball, especially under New York's second-half pressure, they might have boosted their road mark to 4-1-1.
“I think any time you don't get three points, there's some level of disappointment,” head coach Robin Fraser acknowledged to ESPN Los Angeles. “But, realistically, on the road against the first-place team in the East -- with a five-game winning streak -- you have to look at the big picture. A point in Red Bull Arena is not a bad result.”
It could have been worse. Nick LaBrocca, a Jersey boy who tested rookie Red Bulls goalkeeper Ryan Meara just two minutes in, was done by the fifth minute, tweaking his hamstring chasing Dane Richards into the Goats' box. He figures to miss Saturday's game at HDC against Seattle and next week's U.S. Open Cup match against the Ventura County Fusion, and tests will determine if he'll be out longer.
Richards was a handful for Chivas defenders -- he was the pivotal figure on Kenny Cooper's 56th-minute equalizer -- but the Goats did well limiting the effectiveness of Thierry Henry, returning to the Red Bulls' lineup after missing four games with a hamstring injury, and Cooper, who nonetheless tallied for the fourth straight game.
The Danny Califf-Rauwshan McKenzie partnership in central defense, just two games in, looks very good, and Oswaldo Minda was a force in front of them, keying Chivas' transition game while frustrating Henry and Cooper, both of whom confronted the Ecuadoran midfielder.
Dan Kennedy was sharp, making a fine reaction stop on Henry's 51st-minute header, and Ante Jazic secured the point by clearing Dax McCarty's header off the goal line following a corner kick in the 83rd.
Angel, who is still finding his form after missing five games because of a concussion, was the sharpest he has been since his scoring tear last year. He hit the left post in the 25th minute, following a nice sequence involving Paolo Cardozo and Miller Bolaņos, and brilliantly provided a 47th-minute lead.
It came from a Blair Gavin corner kick. McKenzie got his head to the ball, and Angel twisted in the air to volley home from about 8 yards. Heath Pearce, making his second start for the Red Bulls after leaving Chivas in Thursday's Agudelo trade, was making Angel on the play but left him alone when he leapt at the scrum surrounding McKenzie.
“It was great,” Angel told reporters afterward. “At the end of the day, you get your head into the game, and you forget about the rest of the stuff. We knew that we were gonna play against probably the best team in the league as of now. They’re coming from four or five wins in a row, and we needed to get a result somehow.”
It was clearly Angel's night.
“When I went out and I saw the huge ‘Thank You Juan Pablo’ sign, I thought what an impact he has had on this city,” Fraser said. “And for him to come back here today and score the goal ... it was fitting. It was a fitting day for him, I thought.”
Angel was touched.
“You know that people remember you,” he said. “It’s because they appreciate what you did for them, for the organization, and for the club. For me, it meant everything. I will always be grateful for these supporters, for this club, for giving me the opportunity to express myself for a few years. Those memories will never go away. It was great. And the banner … I wasn’t expecting it.”
Even Red Bulls coach Hans Backe enjoyed seeing Angel.
“It was definitely cool,” he said. “He’s been a great player; he was great for this franchise. And you can see how much it meant to the fans, the big signs they had.”
Angel was elbowed in the side of the head by McCarty in the 62nd minute, a worrisome development, given that at times he's complained of lingering affects from his concussion. He was holding his head after he was hit -- it was clearly accidental, with both players battling for the ball -- and cut short his media interviews after the game because of a headache.
New York pulled even nine minutes after Angel struck. Brandon Barklage had a lot of space on the right flank, played a through ball that sent Richards sprinting past Jazic, and the Jamaica's first-time ball behind the Goats defense found Cooper at the far post for an easy finish.
WORTH NOTING: Angel's goal was his fourth this season, all games (including preseason), but just his first that wasn't from the penalty spot. It was his 70th regular-season MLS goal in five-plus seasons. ... Cooper's goal was his 11th of the season, tied with San Jose's Chris Wondolowski for the MLS lead. ... Pearce is being housed at the same hotel in which Chivas was staying, so there was a reunion after the Goats flew Monday to Newark, but it was still odd to see him in an opposing jersey. “Very bizarre, wasn't it?” Fraser said. “It was certainly different seeing him in a different jersey, and we certainly wish him well.” Said Kennedy: “In the run of play, you don't think about it, but every once in a while you look up and see him.” ... Blair Gavin made just his second start of the season, and Cardozo made his third (and his third appearance for Chivas). Alejandro Moreno replaced Cardozo at halftime, a tactical switch to give the Goats more midfield bite. ... Minda now departs to join Ecuador's national team for two World Cup qualifiers next month. Jazic doesn't join Canada's national team until after the Seattle game. ... Rafa Marquez played just his second game of the last seven for New York. ... Referee Armando Villarreal made his MLS debut, and he was impressive, rare for a first-time whistleblower.
MAJOR LEAGUE SOCCER
Red Bull Arena (Harrison, N.J.)
New York Red Bulls 1, Chivas USA 1
C -- Juan Pablo Angel (Rauwshan McKenzie, Blair Gavin) 47
NY -- Kenny Arena (Dane Richards, Brandon Barklage) 56
New York Red Bulls: Ryan Meara; Brandon Barklage, Markus Holgersson, Heath Pearce, Roy Miller; Dane Richards, Dax McCarty, Rafa Marquez, Joel Lindpere; Kenny Cooper, Thierry Henry. Unused subs: Jhonny Arteaga, Mehdi Ballouchy, Wilman Conde, Connor Lade, Ryan Maduro, Jeremy Vuolo.
Chivas USA: Dan Kennedy; James Riley, Danny Califf, Rauwshan McKenzie, Ante Jazic; Nick LaBrocca (Miller Bolaņos 9; Jorge Villafaņa, 69), Oswaldo Minda, Paolo Cardozo (Alejandro Moreno, 46), Blair Gavin; Juan Pablo Angel, Jose Erik Correa. Unused subs: Scott Gordon,Tim Melia, Peter Vagenas, John Alexander Valencia.
Yellow cards: Lindpere 73, Angel 92+.
Referee: Armando Villarreal. Att.: 13,919.
Records: New York 8-3-2, 26 points; Chivas USA 4-6-2, 14 points.