By Ridge Mahoney
Two more Designated Players are headed to MLS in addition to David Beckham and Cuauhtemoc Blanco, and both will bring a heavy dose of Hispanic appeal and attacking flair. There's some baggage as well.
Colombian Juan Pablo Angel, 31, will leave Aston Villa to play for Red Bull New York, and Argentine Guillermo Barros Schelotto, 33, is bound for Columbus. Both have represented their national teams, both have played in the Copa America, and both will draw discerning fans who probably disdain the level of play in MLS.
NYRB needs a goalscorer, and Angel, whose record in the Premiership is inconsistent, can certainly do that. With 44 goals in 175 league appearances since signing with Villa from River Plate in January 2001, Angel has a good strike rate but perhaps isn't what its fans believed 9.5 million pounds (about $13.3 million at the time) could buy on the world market.
Schelotto, on the other hand, is a legend with Boca Juniors, which he has helped win 17 domestic and international trophies in the past decade, but he's not seen regular duty for the past 18 months. He can certainly liven up the moribund Crew attack -- which has yet to net in two games this season -- if he brings to the black-and-gold the same fire and passion he did wearing the blue and yellow of Boca. If, as reported, he has signed a one-year deal, the fact he turns 34 in May is not so significant.
Official announcement of the Angel and Schelotto deals are expected this week, perhaps as early as Tuesday.
MATHIS OFF THE MARK.A goal, an assist, and some slick moves on a rain-slickened surface marked a smart return to Giants Stadium for former MetroStar and new Red Bull Clint Mathis.
He set up Jozy Altidore for NYRB's first goal with a corner kick, and scored the second goal after a low Dane Richards cross was touched into his path by Altidore. The finish was a simple blast high into the net from point-blank range, yet Mathis had raced about 50 yards to get into the goalmouth and wisely checked his run outside the six-yard box.
In the second half, Mathis checked back, finding space between the FC Dallas back line and its midfield, and turned inside to hit a left-footer at goal. The shot missed high, yet few times in the past two seasons has Mathis moved as intelligently and often as he did last Sunday.
Even though Real Salt Lake is still picking up $100,000 of his $400,000-plus salary, he's not cheap. (His salary-cap number is about $200,000, according to a source, since his base salary is much less than his guaranteed income.)
Until he makes such efforts the norm rather than the exception, he won't win over the skeptics, who cite his five goals the past two seasons for RSL and Colorado more indicative of his current value than the 33 goals and 21 assists he recorded in four seasons with the Metros before heading to Germany.
Yet in an icy rain and on a saturated surface, Mathis gamboled and frolicked. He had fun and helped his team win. That's a start.
TFC LANDS DICHIO.Striker Daniel Dichio has left English club Preston on a free transfer to sign with Toronto but none of the reports stipulate if he is a DP. (Toronto had also been interested in Jacek Bak.) Millwall, QPR, Sunderland, West Brom and Sampdoria are Dichio's other clubs. He will not count against the international player limit as his wife has a U.S. passport, according to one report.