CARSON, Calif. – The way LA Galaxy midfielder Mike Magee sees it, Juan Pablo Ángel deserved better.
According to Magee, one of the best players in Red Bulls/MetroStars history deserved a more gracious exit and better treatment than he received in 2010 from his former club.
“If I have my facts right, I think they told him midway through the year that they weren’t going to pick up his option,” said Magee, who played with Ángel for two seasons in New York and is now reunited with him in LA. “First of all, it’s not right to tell someone that and he still scored double-digit goals. It’s really bizarre but … I’m not surprised.”
Ángel parted ways with New York following the end of the 2010 season. In four years with the Red Bulls, Ángel scored 58 regular-season goals and led the club to its only MLS Cup appearance when the Red Bulls reached the title game in 2008.
Yet the veteran striker was let go by the club because he no longer fit into Hans Backe’s plans. With Thierry Henry now on the roster, Ángel was banished to the Re-Entry Draft on the way out.
“When I spent my time there, it kind of seems like a lot of things go the opposite of what you think," said Magee of his former club. "I think he scored 11 goals last year or something [Ángel had 13] and he wasn’t even playing a lot in the end.”
When he arrived at New York in 2007, Ángel did so with a load of fanfare. Galaxy coach Bruce Arena, then in charge of New York, brought the Colombian in as the club’s second Designated Player. A longtime standout with EPL side Aston Villa, Ángel made an immediate impact on his teammates.
“In New York, we had so many so-called big signings and I think when we got him, there was a feeling where you weren’t sure,” Magee said. “Soon after he got there, probably that day, you realized that this guy was for real.”
New York had gone through their share of big-name players who did not pan out, including Branco, Sergio Galván Rey and Lothar Matthäus. Initially the fear was that Ángel would join that list.
“That day in practice, he was the hardest-working guy and his goal-scoring rate speaks for itself,” Magee said. “It was definitely a great thing because we were literally getting player after player who was supposed to be the next best player in the world … [but] a lot of guys didn’t pan out. He definitely changed that.”
Ángel won over New York with his workmanlike, blue-collar talent, and Magee said he's done the same with the Galaxy. Even though Ángel has just one goal in eight games, the veteran striker still puts in a lot of hours and teammates could learn a thing or two from that, Magee said.
“Juan’s a great guy," Magee said. "He’s a great person, a hard worker. Sometimes DPs – not on this team – kind of come here, get big contracts and kind of relax. He’s definitely not that guy. He works hard. He’s in the gym every day working his butt off. He’s a good example for the young guys. We need that for the young guys.”