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He was never hailed as the savior of Major League Soccer — unlike a certain former English Premier League golden boy — but the arrival of Juan Pablo Angel to the New York Red Bulls, and more importantly U.S. soccer has already begun to pay major dividends.

Since Angel was brought over as a designated player, and is being paid more than $1.5 million for his services, there were considerable expectations for his performance.

So far Angel has blown away all expectations and any defenders trying to stop him.

In just six games, the former Aston Villa player has scored seven goals and has at times made defenders look downright silly.

But what has made Angel’s impact so interesting is that American soccer fans are finally getting a look at what a player, who is still near their prime, from a top-flight European league can do in the U.S.

The Colombia-born Angel transferred to Aston Villa during the January transfer window in 2001 for a club record 9.5 million pounds. He got off to an inauspicious start, but in the 2003-04 season Angel scored 23 goals, including 16 in EPL play.

In the next two and a half seasons Angel couldn’t reproduce his form, including scoring just three goals in 31 games during the 2005-06 season, and dropped out of favor at Aston Villa. The arrivals of John Carew and Ashley Young in 2007 signaled the end for Angel.

What he has done for the Red Bulls though has been a revelation. At 31 years old, Angel is younger than David Beckham and plays a key position to draw eyes to MLS games. As a forward, Angel has the opportunity to make the type of impact on the field that people will notice.

While the Beckham signing is a major coup for MLS and puts a face on soccer for America, Beckham’s game is not going to get the casual soccer fan to jump off their seat. While not many players in the world can strike a ball like Beckham or deliver a 40-yard pass on a dime, the intricacies of his game can go unnoticed at times.

Goals are what get people excited and Angel has done nothing but delivered the goods. Hopefully this is a testament to the quality that Beckham and future foreign imports will bring to MLS. The more players that come over before their best playing days are behind them will not only raise the profile of MLS, but also its level of play.

MLS defenders can already attest to Angel’s skill.


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