Galaxy drafts Juan Pablo Angel, gets rights to Frankie Hejduk


By Grahame L. Jones
Los Angeles Times

December 15, 2010

The Galaxy moved Wednesday to significantly improve the depth of its attack by drafting veteran Colombian forward Juan Pablo Angel.

Angel, 35, was selected in the second stage of Major League Soccer’s reentry draft after his contract was not renewed by the New York Red Bulls. He was the fourth player selected, after Americans Josh Woolf (D.C. United), Jimmy Conrad (Chivas USA) and Ryan Cochrane (New England Revolution).

The Galaxy also picked up Angel’s former New York teammate, midfielder Luke Sassano, 25, of Orinda, Calif., with the ninth pick. The club then traded the rights to Sassano to Sporting Kansas City in exchange for the rights to U.S. 2002 World Cup defender Frankie Hejduk, 36.

“He can score goals, he’s very good in front of the net, he can hold the ball up,” Bruce Arena, the Galaxy’s coach and general manager, said of Angel.

“I think they’ll be a good duo,” Arena said of the possibility of pairing Angel with Edson Buddle, the Galaxy’s leading goal scorer in 2010.

Wednesday’s move does not guarantee that Angel will come to Los Angeles.

“All we’ve done is acquire the rights to him,” Arena said. “We still have to negotiate and reach an agreement.”

In a 17-year career, Angel also has played for Atletico Nacional in Colombia, River Plate in Argentina and Aston Villa in England.

A top-class striker, he has scored 235 goals in 601 games for his club teams and nine goals in 33 games for Colombia’s national team. Sixty-one of his goals came in his four MLS seasons.

Arena said Angel’s age should not be a factor.

“We’re not acquiring him to play for five years,” Arena said. “I think he’s still got two or three good years left in him. He’s a fit player, and fitness has been a big reason for his success.”

Arena, formerly coach of the Red Bulls, was instrumental in Angel joining MLS in 2006 and the two have spoken in recent days. Arena said Angel appeared “very interested” in joining the Galaxy.

“If we’re able to sign Juan, he’s going to help make us a better team,” Arena said.

The move apparently does not signal that forward/midfielder Landon Donovan might be heading for Europe.

“I fully expect Landon to be playing for the Galaxy from January until November next year,” Arena said.

Nor would Arena comment on persistent rumors linking AC Milan playmaker Ronaldinho with a 2011 move to Los Angeles.

“I don’t think it’s professional or ethically correct to state that we’re pursuing a player who is under contract to another club,” he said. “It would be improper on my part to comment publically.”