CARSON, Calif. — When Juan Pablo Ángel joined the LA Galaxy at the start of the 2011 season, few would have predicted that one of the league’s most prolific scorers would fall out of favor before the end of August.
And few could have foreseen that he would have finished the season with the team across the hall.
Such is the life of a professional footballer, particularly during a trying and troubling season when the club expected more.
In a deal announced Wednesday, Ángel was dealt away to Chivas USA to make room for Ireland international striker Robbie Keane. While Galaxy players say they are excited about Keane’s arrival, they are also lamenting Ángel’s departure.
“I know it didn’t work out the way he wanted to on the field,” said Galaxy captain Landon Donovan. “Obviously he wanted to score a few more goals, but we’re going to miss him. It will be nice; we’re still going to get to see him from time to time.”
Ángel scored just three goals in 22 games this season. While the Galaxy are making a push at their second consecutive Supporters’ Shield title and hoping to make a run in the CONCACAF Champions League as well, a forward capable of handling the load is a necessary part of the equation in both league and cup.
The man up front, then, will be Keane, not Ángel, who had scored 58 goals in four seasons with New York.
Parting with Ángel, though, was not necessarily an easy decision. After all, despite his lack of goals, he was not just excess baggage.
“He’s been a great professional for our team,” Galaxy coach Bruce Arena said. “He made us a better team, he really did. I love him as a person and a player. He’s a first-class individual. I don’t know what more to say. I have nothing but the greatest respect for him.”
Ángel was part of the Galaxy’s preseason from the start. Initially, his family did not join him out west and he spent a chunk of the early part of the season living in a hotel. Finally, though, he bought a house, his family joined him, and he was settled into a new environment.
While the goals never came in a consistent manner, his professionalism and positive attitude never wavered.
“Juan is a first-class guy,” Galaxy defender Gregg Berhalter said. “He set the standard that a lot of the older people on the team have established in this team, and that’s, ‘You work hard no matter who you are.’ He came in and went right along with that and he worked hard from day one. He had a great attitude from day one and he was a great teammate.”
While Ángel was not as productive as LA had anticipated when snapping him up in the MLS Re-Entry Draft, he is still rather capable of putting the ball in the back of the net. And if that happens to help out the Galaxy’s intra-stadium rivals, so be it.
“Everybody knows his capabilities and qualities and for whatever reason it wasn’t working out here,” Donovan said. “Perhaps style of play didn’t mesh well. I have no doubt that he’s going to succeed.”