Juan Pablo Ángel was a club legend during his four seasons with the New York Red Bulls and on Wednesday night in his first match at Red Bull Arena since leaving the club, the forward made a triumphant return.
The Colombian forward scored a goal as Chivas USA earned a road point with a 1-1 draw with the Red Bulls, snapping New York’s five-game winning streak. From the start the match, it was a moving night for the Colombian, who made his first start since early May and was honored before kickoff by a series of banners from the Red Bull faithful.
WATCH: Ángel, Fraser on special night at RBA
“Obviously, it was emotional being back here, it was my first time back since I left the club and you obviously have in the back of your head all the memories with the club, in this organization and with the supporters,” Ángel told reporters after the match. “But then when the game starts, it was another game and you want to win it, regardless of who you’re playing against.”
Although the Red Bulls dominated the early stages of the match, Ángel was active from the start of the match, repeatedly testing the Red Bulls back four. In the 25th minute, he nearly put the Rojiblancos ahead when he fired a left-footed shot from the edge of the box into the post.
Just 15 minutes later, Ángel was at it again as he maneuvered past several defenders to a force a save from New York goalkeeper Ryan Meara.
But it didn't take long for Ángel to break through as he tallied in the 47th minute of play. Off a Blair Gavin corner kick, Rauwshan McKenzie headed the ball forward to Ángel, who fired a stunning and acrobatic right footed volley into the back of the Red Bulls net.
Out of respect for his former club, the leading goalscorer in New York club history was subdued in his celebration, simply raising his hands as he savored his second goal of the season.
“I thought he was very good,” head coach Robin Fraser told MLSsoccer.com by phone after the match of Ángel’s performance. “He really showed his experience and ability to figure out how to get the best of players. He was very solid all night, doing a great job of holding up balls for us and then scoring a goal, it was a good night.”
But after his goal, the chances became few and far between as the Red Bulls piled on the pressure getting the equalizer less than 10 minutes later in the 56th minute off Kenny Cooper’s strike. From there, the Red Bulls took control throwing numbers forward forcing several stops including a goal line clearance by Ante Jazic off a Dax McCarty shot that nearly earned three points for New York.
Although his return to his old stomping grounds didn't end in a win, Ángel was pleased with his return to his old home.
“I spoke with the people that I had friendships with,” said Ángel. “I left a lot of friends and a lot of memories here. And those things will never go away.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.