Chivas USA 2012 Player Postmortem: Juan Pablo Angel

Angel: A tough season, but his goals were always significant. - Kelvin Kuo-US PRESSWIRE

He only scored five goals, but he led the team in goals in 2012. How was JPA's season?

Juan Pablo Angel was the surprise of Chivas USA's 2011 season. Acquired late in the season, JPA scored seven goals in his nine appearances for the Goats. Considering his status in his previous stop, with the LA Galaxy, who dropped him like a hot potato in order to sign Robbie Keane, the fact that he was so productive seemed like something of a bonus.

What about 2012? Well, he played more than twice as many games and scored a little more than half of the goals of the previous season. Despite this, he was the team's leading scorer. Yeah, it was a tough year for the Colombian, and for Chivas USA.

The season got off to a rough start, as Angel signed a new deal with Chivas the week of the season opener after playing with the team through the preseason. He played the full 90 in Chivas' first game against the Houston Dynamo, then sat out the next five games after suffering a concussion. The strange thing was that he supposedly got the concussion during the preseason, but went out and played another game, then was too hurt to play. Don't get me wrong, I'm not interested in having any player play when he has a concussion, but the timing of going down only after signing a contract and playing a game after already suffering a head injury is pretty sketchy. I suppose that the Houston game could have aggravated a "minor" concussion, enough to take him out of commission, but it still seems pretty suspicious.

As a result of that concussion, and various other minor injuries during the season, JPA didn't play 20 league games in a season for the first time since he came to MLS in 2007.

These were JPA's statistics for 2012:

Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 19 9 1,004 4 0 50 18 0 0
U.S. Open Cup 4 2 198 1 0 4 2 1 0
Total 23 11 1,202 5 0 54 20 1 0

Although there weren't many goals (and again, Angel won the team's Golden Boot award this season), his goals almost always got the team points. Two of his goals (the PK against the Carolina RailHawks in the U.S. Open Cup, and the goal against the Montreal Impact) were late gamewinners, while two others gave the Goats a draw. The fifth was Chivas' first penalty kick in 636 days - although the Goats lost that game, getting that first PK was good for getting the monkey off the team's back.

I think the good about JPA was his role as a leader for the young striker corps. After scoring a late winner in the USOC against the Charlotte Eagles, Jose Correa was quick to praise Angel for his role. The young Colombian was tired, getting his first action after suffering a hamstring injury, but he said that Angel told him he would push Correa to the ball as long as he could get his head on it, and Correa claimed that's what happened. Certainly, having Angel around Correa and fellow Colombian-born (and former New York Red Bull teammate) Juan Agudelo helped the pair in their development in their young careers.

Additionally, JPA was essentially the only forward on the roster who could competently play alone up top, a formation that Robin Fraser used quite a bit during the season. Unfortunately, with Angel's injuries, he wasn't able to lead the line as much as I think many would have hoped, but he still showed at times he could be dangerous.

On the other hand, JPA was probably the biggest victim of having shots that looked destined for goal get saved or otherwise go off target (crossbar/post, deflection) all season, although other teammates suffered from this malady as well. Without JPA properly firing on all cylinders, it seemed to confirm the attitude that the team seemed "cursed" in 2012. Although I think there were a great many reasons as to why the team struggled so much to score, and probably didn't work under a curse, I will say they seemed very unlucky at times. Hopefully, the law of averages means Chivas will be extra lucky in 2013, but will JPA be back? It seems pretty unlikely. He is out of contract, and is currently a free agent, and there are few indications that he'll come back to Chivas.

I think he could bounce back and maybe have another good (not great) season, but I could also see him struggle to stay fit and score goals with any consistency. He is a talented player who mentored some players who could be among the next generation of MLS stars, but this is most likely the end of the road for JPA, at least with the Goats.

Grades:

Scoring Threat: B
Age is not kind to strikers. Below is a smattering (and by no means comprehensive) of MLS strikers tallies as they ascended into graybeard status.

Player Club Season Age Goals
Jeff Cunningham FC Dallas 2010 34 8
Jaime Moreno DC United 2009 35 9
Carlos Ruiz Philadelphia 2011 32 6
Brian Ching Houston 2012 34 5
Brian McBride Chicago 2010 38 6
Dwayne De Rosario DC United 2012 34 8
Ante Razov Chivas USA 2008 34 8
Josh Wolff DC United 2011 37 5
Preki KC 2003 40 12
Steve Ralston NE 2009 35 7
Juan Pablo Angel Chivas USA 2012 37 4

With the exception of the otherworldly Preki, who netted 12 goals at 40, there just is a point where the well dries up. In hindsight, it might be more appropriate to laud JPA for all he was able to accomplish up until 37. Which is not to suggest Angel was going to accept his fate in 2012. He was second only to Miller Bolanos in total shots with 50, despite playing 854 fewer minutes. As a competitor, JPA chaffed at the idea of being a late game sub. However he really did well in the role, scoring two goals as a substitute.

Playmaker (Passing/Creativity): B
Angel had six through balls on the season, equaling the entire output of the rest of the striker corps. A properly played through ball can transform small seams in the defense into gaping chasms.

Defense: B
While Angel did try to spend his time up top, he was also able to track back to make the occasional clearance. In fact his 18 clearances lead Chivas USA's forwards.

- Matthew Hoffman

GM's Evaluation:

I think it's fair to say Juan Pablo Angel won't be sticking around. Word is that he's trying to find a contract, and it's not with Chivas USA. No matter what, I think it's for the best. I love the guy, on and off the field. I think he contributes and is a total athlete - no matter his age, he can bring something to the table. He is also a great leader and can provide a great locker room presence. Should he not find a playing contract elsewhere, I'd love to see him stick around in a Front Office job.

- Rachna Kapur

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