Thursday, May 24, 2007

Two Goals in Two Minutes -- Juan Pablo Angel was named MLS' player of the week in his first start with the New York Red Bulls. Angel hasn't had any adjustment issues in coming over from Aston Villa. The Red Bulls seem to have struck gold with the addition of Angel. In tonight's game against the Chicago Fire, Angel set up Jozy Altidore's goal-scoring drive a little over a minute into the game. Angel held the ball at the top corner of the box. As the defense fell back in reaction to Angel, he found John Wolyniec, with his back to the goal, just inside the six-yard box. Wolyniec redirected the ball to the top of the box, where Jozy Altidore slammed in just inside the corner. A minute later, Dane Richards drove down the wing, sent a pass into the box, which Angel neatly brought down, and then scored with his second touch, beating the Fire's goalie, to the far side. This gave the Red Bulls a 2-0 lead, just 2 minutes and 15 seconds in.

In the second half, Angel continued to dazzle. When Craig Stammler delivered a cross that made its way to Angel, standing just outside the six-yard box, Fire defender Chris Armas came sliding to block Angel's certain shot, which he was teeing up. Instead, Angel dummied with his right foot, allowing the ball to slide past him to his left. That left Angel with an amazingly easy shot for goal off his left foot. He didn't miss. It would seem that Angel will earn player of the week honors again, in only his second MLS start. It may be a little humbling for the MLS to see someone of Angel's quality plainly have his way with inferior defenders, but it's a huge leap forward for the Red Bulls. It might not be a stretch to say that Angel is the most talented player the league has seen -- certainly, he is the best since Marco Etcheverry was at the top of his game with DC United.

Bruce Arena, with some help from the free-spending ownership, has put together a team that is a delight to watch. They are everything DC United hoped to be this year. Although they have already been eliminated from U.S. Open Cup competition (they lost to the Galaxy in a qualifier, though by all reports, the Red Bulls were by far the better team) they will be a serious contender for the MLS title.

If only fans in the New York/New Jersey tri-state metro area start coming out, the project that Bruce Arena embarked on last summer will be a rousing success. He has brought in two exciting veteran American players, with Clint Mathis and Claudio Reyna, He has inherited the most exciting young American player, with Altidore. He's brought in the speedy Jamaican, Richards, to open up the offense. Now, with Angel, Arena has the international star needed to bring the team respectability, talent and polish.

The MLS has wanted, even claimed to need a winning team in New York. Now they have one. Will New York area fans live up to their end of the bargain?

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