UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. — It takes a lot for the league’s second-leading goal-scorer and perennial All-Star to be overshadowed, but such is the life of Juan Pablo Angel these days. The Colombian striker, who came to New York after a highly successful stint in the English Premier League, was the franchise’s first designated player signing. But these days, Ángel is overshadowed a bit by new signings Thierry Henry and Rafa Márquez.
Which means very little to Ángel.
“It’s been great to see the league grow, to see the team grow and get better,” Ángel told MLSsoccer.com. “Watching how Red Bull has invested in this team—it’s been great to see.”
Heading into the massive clash with the Chicago Fire on Sunday night (9 p.m. ET, ESPN2), Ángel is clearly enjoying life as a player. It is more than just a pleasant way to earn a living. The health of the club, the league, and the game itself have equal importance for him.
“When I came here, I made it clear that I wanted to invest in this league personally, to see it grow,” Angel said. “With my play, but also with the experiences I’ve had and gone through—I felt like I could offer something to the younger players in particular.”
He praises the signings of Henry and Márquez as exactly what the New York market and league need, but Ángel is clearly excited about his partnership with the former French international up top.
Since joining the team in 2007, Ángel has had at least seven strike partners with whom he’s played with a minimum of five games. This does not include two current players, midfielders Macoumba Kandji and Dane Richards, both of whom have been slotted alongside Ángel from time to time the past couple seasons.
In Houston last weekend, Henry created both of Ángel’s goals in the 2-2 draw. And Ángel set up several good chances for Henry, in return. Not a bad start considering that an ankle injury coupled with his participation in the All-Star Game hampered Ángel’s ability to practice with Henry.
“I think you see that he is class, that he’s a player who can do a lot for this team when he’s on the ball or not on the ball,” Angel said of Henry. “It’s nice to have that partner up top who can do all that.”
Ángel, now 34, says that he hasn’t thought much about retirement or what he’ll do when his playing days are over. His focus right now, is winning this team “its first trophy, to end this season the right way.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012