Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
By JONATHAN VERA
CARSON, Calif. – Juan Pablo Angel may have been in a slump with the Los Angeles Galaxy earlier this season, but at Chivas USA the 35-year-old stiker has proven once again that he still has quality minutes left in his tank.
Why are the Rojiblancos a better fit for Angel?
"It's hard to tell," Angel said. "I participate a little more here in the game in places that I know I'm good at. I know what I've been doing in my career and it hasn't changed. And here, I am proving it again and I'm delighted."
With the Galaxy, Angel shared the spotlight with Landon Donovan and David Beckham and was strictly stationed in the front line, unable to participate in the midfield. Chivas teammate Alejandro Moreno recognized Angel's troubles stating that "with the Galaxy, he was lost in the shuffle a little bit."
With the Goats, however, Angel is running around on all ends of the pitch, getting more involved in the link-up play, and making more passes. It also helped a little bit that the team needed him to fill a vital role on the field.
"He's a class act as a person, and as a player and he came here and looked at it as a challenge," Chivas USA coach Robin Fraser said. "This is a team that needed some help, and that's the impressive thing.
"This has been a good fit for him, because this is a team that generally appreciates and needs all of his qualities. A lot of people can come into difficult situations and really not ingratiate themselves and makes the team's problems their problems, but Juan has really adapted to us and feels like one of us."
Granted, he has been accepted into the team, but one player cannot change the entire dynamic, or lack thereof, of a team. The Rojiblancos had to make changes and start playing better as a whole if they excepted Angel to accomplish anything.
"For him to help us we got to be better on the final third of the field, be more creative, our final passes have to be sharper, and we just have to be better moving with or without the ball," Moreno said.
And they have.
Chivas USA has recently started clicking and delivering precise passes, and this newly found dynamic — albeit one that might be developing a bit too late in the season — was just what the doctor ordered for Angel to fit in successfully.
Since making the move to Chivas in August, Angel has scored six goals in six games, including five in his last three appearances. That's a far cry from the three goals he posted in 22 appearances with the Galaxy.
"It's been very enjoyable," said Angel, whose braces against D.C. United and Toronto FC helped Chivas capture four vital points. "I am finding my game again, and I'm delighted. I wish we were in a better position in the standings, but I'm enjoying what's happening so far."
Angel's influence has been passed on to his teammates, especially the forwards with whom he partners as part of the rejuvenated attack.
"I watch him play and learn things to help my game," 24-year-old Chivas forward Justin Braun said. "He definitely brings a lot of experience to the team. It makes it more competitive, which is good. It's good to have competition in the locker room. I think it'll help Alejandro and I perform better."
Angel's move down the Home Depot Center hallway has been the best thing to happen for the Goats this year, and as the games unfold it's clear to see that they were made for one another. Chivas needed a proven goal scorer, and Angel needed a challenge and to be able to play freely. Whether he remains with the club next season will be a hot issue during the offseason given his recent play, but if Angel returns for a full season, Chivas could boast one of the league's more potent strikeforces in 2012.