HARRISON, N.J. – On Thursday, as Juan Pablo Angel scored in the 80th minute, it seemed as though he was going to have the fairy-tale ending of the night.
With a header into an open net, the former Colombian international and the Red Bulls' second-ever Designated Player cut the San Jose lead in half to 2-1, and knotted the series at 2-2 on aggregate. It seemed like the heavens were opening up for Ángel.
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After the goal, Ángel turned to the home end where the supporters stand and thumped his chest right at the Red Bulls logo. He was the hero and the crowd, with a crescendo, cheered even louder.
But three minutes later, things changed and Thursday night became the last time New York fans will see Ángel in a Red Bulls kit.
Chris Wondolowski, who was key in San Jose’s run to the postseason, came through in the clutch again. His header went past New York ‘keeper Bouna Coundoul and the Earthquakes pulled off a 3-1 win (3-2 aggregate), eliminating the Eastern Conference’s No. 1 seed.
Early in October, Ángel, who is in the last year of his contract with the club, said he knew “for a fact” that the Red Bulls would not be retaining his services in 2011.
“Life goes on, I will move on,” Ángel said after the match. “I wish everyone here all the best.”
The move to cut ties with the forward comes as the player has struggled in recent months. Since the MLS All-Star game in July, Ángel has scored four goals in the regular season, but just two have come from the run of play. Thursday night’s tally was the first of the playoffs for him.
It was a frustrating night for Ángel, the 80th-minute goal notwithstanding. The striker had two poorly taken free kicks in a match where his overall passing and touch was less than crisp. Even in a playoff game where the Red Bulls had the run of play, goals and quality chances were hard to come by.
WATCH: Ángel's header
“With the number of chances we created, we deserved better,” Ángel said.
As he walked off the field after the loss, the Colombian looked glum, only lifting his eyes from the field to applaud some fans cheering his name.
Ángel, who went to the MLS Cup 2008 as the eighth seeded New York made a dramatic run through the playoffs, was hoping to call an end to his Red Bulls career by lifting the MLS Cup at BMO Field this November.
“I said I always wanted to walk away with a championship,” said Ángel. “It didn’t happen.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012.
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