COMMERCE CITY, CO - AUGUST 20: When will the JPA contract saga end? (Photo by Marc Piscotty/Getty Images)
I really hope this article becomes outdated as soon as possible. But as the weeks go by, and one month of preseason training goes well into a second, and with the season exactly three weeks away, I am getting nervous about the uncertain status of Juan Pablo Angel and Chivas USA. The signs have been pointing to him being officially on board with Chivas for months, but no official word, and no leaked word of a done deal, has come out yet. What is going on?
What signs indicate he will be with the Goats for the 2012 season? There has been no word of him looking to any other team, and both Angel and the Chivas front office have said they want him playing with the team this season since the end of the 2011 season. Added to that are signs like JPA training with the club since the very first day of this preseason, which is fantastic considering he could be like a lot of guys who would sit on their couch waiting until a deal was in place before getting down to business and training for the season. This way, assuming a deal is signed, he will be in shape in time for the season and will hopefully make an impact immediately.Also, Chivas appear to expect him to return for the season, as they just sent him on that jersey-revealing trip between Guadalajara and Los Angeles this past week with Dan Kennedy and Jorge Villafana (who are both under contract). If it turns out he isn't signed and won't be playing for Chivas in 2012, that whole marketing gimmick is going to look pretty bad. So I think it demonstrates that both sides are serious about getting him on board for another season.
Now, what could be standing in the way of a deal? I can think of two factors: money and length of contract. Let's look at the money first. Last season, he signed a "multi-year deal" with the LA Galaxy (I thought it was a two-year deal but I couldn't find any confirmation of this, so it's length remains hazy). His listed salary last season was an even $1 million in base salary, with $1,250,000 in guaranteed compensation. As a designated player, his full salary wasn't counted against the salary cap, instead that figure was $335,000. Once he was traded to Chivas, I suspect one of the terms of the deal (in addition to the Galaxy reportedly picking up a substantial portion of his salary) was that his contract would be terminated at the end of the season so that Chivas would not be locked in if his stint with the Goats wasn't productive. If that is indeed the case, I think it was a shrewd move on the part of the front office, insofar as his contract would not become an albatross for the team if it didn't work out. Since the Galaxy were desperate to drop him, and since the league seems to have wanted to facilitate the move in order for the Galaxy to bring in Robbie Keane, it seems entirely plausible the team was willing to bend the rules in this case.
So now if JPA signs with Chivas for 2012, it will be interesting to see how much he makes. He played extremely well during his time with Chivas in 2011, and he deserves another year with the team. Is the club willing to pay him a Designated Player-caliber salary? I can see why they would balk at a million dollars, especially since they've never paid a player anything remotely close to that, but what's a fair amount? $500,000? I think that's a decent ballpark, but I'm not an agent or in management.
The other factor that might be stalling a contract is the potential length of a contract. I would imagine he would want a longer contract, perhaps 2-3 years, while I'm guessing the club probably wants to do a year at a time. I don't blame either side here - this might be JPA's final professional contract and he'll want to maximize it, while Chivas will want to retain flexibility for the future. So this could be a significant sticking point.
Let's imagine if JPA does not actually sign for this season: Alejandro Moreno will be the lone experienced striker (I'm not counting Chris Cortez, who played only a handful of times so far in his professional career) on the squad, and Robin Fraser's been experimenting with him playing in midfield during the preseason. Besides that, there's Cortez, rookie Casey Townsend, possibly Miller Bolanos, and if he is signed, Cesar Romero. Needless to say, without JPA, the remaining options up top, while showing some potential, would be among the weakest in the league, at least at the start of the campaign, and the young guys would need to really step up in a hurry if the team were to become successful. So while Angel seems to need Chivas if he wants to keep playing, Chivas seem to need him just as much.
Like I said, I hope the news is announced as soon as possible, and this article becomes much ado about nothing. As long as he's signed and ready to go for First Kick on March 11, I think everybody will be happy. But if it falls apart, either because of JPA or the front office, it's going to make the club look really bad. This team seems to be moving in the direction of changing the overall culture for the better - JPA signing and playing in 2012 seems essential to that mission.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!