CARSON, Calif. — Professionalism on and off the field has been the rallying cry for Chivas USA head coach Robin Fraser and GM José Domene during their “building process” for the Rojiblancos.
For Chivas USA, Juan Pablo Ángel — the league's leading scorer over the past five years — represents the epitome of the grand project that the club has embarked upon in 2011.
Acquired from the LA Galaxy for a third round supplemental draft pick in 2012, Ángel arrives eager to produce after scoring just three times in 22 appearances for the Galaxy.
“Just because he hasn’t scored goals this year that doesn’t mean that he can’t score goals," Domene told MLSsoccer.com. “He’ll be a great presence. He’ll help us a lot, especially down the stretch because we need a guy that will put the ball in the net."
Ángel has proven throughout his career that he can score and tallied 58 goals in four seasons for the New York Red Bulls. That pedigree made him a desired commodity when it became apparent that he no longer fit in the Galaxy’s plans after they signed Ireland International Robbie Keane.
Even Ángel’s countryman, Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragón, launched a Twitter campaign imploring the former Colombia international to join Philadelphia. However, Ángel, who only recently moved to Southern California, decided that he didn't want to relocate again.
“There was a lot of talk, but I had a good conversation with Robin and it was a convenience that I did not have to move again,” Ángel said. “My family just got here about three months ago, and I spent the majority of the season without my family, and I didn’t enjoy it. Part of being able to perform is being mentally right, and family is a very important part of my life, so I wanted to have them close and didn’t want to move again.”
With the speculation over his move finally at rest, Ángel has begun to integrate himself into the Rojiblancos squad. During his second training session with the team on Wednesday, Ángel was immediately thrown into the fray, participating in intrasquad scrimmages.
Partnered with Alejandro Moreno and facing the Rojiblancos first team defense, Ángel appeared to function well alongside his fellow South American veteran. It remains to be seen just where Ángel fits on the field for Chivas, but his professional attitude looks at home with the Rojiblancos' philosophy.
“As impressed as I was watching him play for many years, I’m even more impressed with the person he is," Fraser said. “He epitomizes what we want to do here. He’s about hard work, the team, and like all of us he wants to enjoy the process. He’s going to offer us so much, not just in terms of his ability and his experience of being in high-pressure situations.”
The 35-year-old’s first opportunity for the Rojiblancos will be this Saturday when Chivas face the defending MLS Cup Champions the Colorado Rapids (9 pm ET; watch LIVE online). Always the fierce competitor, Ángel hopes to make his debut — but even if he does not, he will look to help his new club in any manner that he can.
“I will try to bring my experience just as I have done everywhere that I’ve been,” said Ángel. “I will try to help the team first and foremost on the field and then whatever advice I can give or help to the well-being of the locker room, I’m up for it. I’ve always been a guy that wherever I go, I try to add to the team — and this will not be the exception.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com and on Twitter: @adamserrano