By Ridge Mahoney
The closing of the domestic transfer market Aug. 15 triggered a flurry of moves, with the Galaxy's grab of Irish striker Robbie Keane at the hub of the action.
NEW STAR IN THE GALAXY. Keane, assuming his frequently battered body holds up, should tear it up in MLS not because of what he’s done elsewhere but because of who and what he is: a relentless, aggressive, fearless spearhead who can scratch goals out of nothing or apply the finishing stroke to a crisp buildup.
He’s not reliant on great service, which makes the Galaxy twice as tough to defend, for he will certainly be provided ample opportunities by David Beckham, Landon Donovan, Juninho, Todd Dunivant, etc., and will also carve out space for teammates by tying up defenders with his back to goal or arrowing between them on shrewd runs. He can make goals on his own and even on this team, he’ll have to.
There were disquieting glimpses during his 10-game loan spell at West Ham -- during which he scored two goals -- that the pace and rigor of Premier League play may have passed him by. But at age 31, the zeal and scrappiness fans of Spurs and Ireland know so well is present, and every member of the Galaxy organization, not just the team, is to be reinvigorated.
Whether he’ll be worth the $9 million or so the Galaxy is paying in transfer fee and salary won’t be known for quite a while, and in a league often blighted by questionable officiating, his track record of occasional blowups and tirades could be disrupting. But give the Galaxy credit; it has pushed a huge stack of chips into the pot.
SHADES OF DIAZ ARCE? The Galaxy had to clear a DP slot to make room for Keane and after more than a week of hardball negotiations, it practically gave away Juan Pablo Angel to Chivas USA.
A third-round supplemental draft pick in 2012 was all that Chivas USA had to give up for Angel. He had signed with the Galaxy during the winter after being claimed in the Re-Entry Draft, but seldom looked anything like the man who scored 58 goals in the past four seasons as a Red Bull. In 22 games he scored just three goals.
Via fancy financial finagling, although of course terms have not been disclosed, the Galaxy is also picking up a chunk of Angel’s salary. In its push for the playoffs, Chivas USA could do well with a few timely Angel goals, but are those goals still in his holster?
Let’s review the final phase of Raul Diaz Arce’s MLS career. He scored an astonishing 56 goals in three seasons for D.C. United (1996-97) and New England (1998) before moving on to San Jose, where he labored (four goals in 18 games). A midseason trade to Tampa Bay revived him, and he netted a remarkable nine goals in just 13 games. But after that, it went downhill.
A move back to D.C. United in 2000 predicated two tough seasons. Injuries and inconsistent form led to his retirement at the end of the 2001 season at the relatively young age of 31.
If Angel regains his form as did Diaz Arce after the midseason move to Tampa Bay, Chivas USA could be tough to dispatch in the playoffs if it qualifies.
Angel began his MLS career at age 31, the same age at which Diaz Arce retired and Keane now is starting his American adventure. Angel will be 36 in October, but all Chivas USA needs from him is some solid play between now and then.
RED BULL BLAHS. The big-market bully on the opposite coast, New York, is looking more outfoxed and outflanked at each significant move.
The team that told Angel last summer to take a hike has been overly reliant on a straightforward bruiser, Luke Rodgers, who has done well but is currently injured – again – and is merely a zephyr compared to the tornado that now wears the D.C. United shirt, Dwayne De Rosario. He lasted just a few months with New York after being traded by Toronto FC, which had jettisoned him following an unauthorized – according to the team – jaunt to Glasgow Celtic for a trial in December. In eight games for United, DeRo has six goals and three assists.
Now, just suppose New York had kept DeRo and paired him regularly with teenage phenom Juan Agudelo regularly when Rodgers wasn’t available? But instead Coach Hans Backe bent DeRo the wrong way when Backe proclaimed the striker wouldn’t play for Canada in the Gold Cup, an absurd statement given how fiercely and proudly DeRo represents his country. Once DeRo went away for international duty in late May his eventual departure from Red Bull Arena was only a matter of time.
The Red Bull attack, even without DeRo and with Rodgers sidelined, hasn’t played poorly. Instead, too many goals are being conceded, and not all the blame lay with goalies Bouna Coundoul and Greg Sutton, as spotty and sporadic as their performances have been. Without holding mid Teemu Tainio to screen him, centerback Rafael Marquez can’t get by on his sluggish, listless displays.
Marquez still puts out for Mexico, but for whatever reason, when he pulls on a Red Bull shirt, he’s not into it. Yes, there are adjustments to be made without Tainio as Tim Ream fights through a tough second season, but as a stud centerback Marquez is supposed to plug up holes and break up plays and rally the troops, and most of the time, he just doesn’t.
So, lacking a sharp finisher and solid defensive presence in the middle, what do the Red Bulls do? Come on down, 38-year-old German goalkeeper Frank Rost! He’s taken up the third DP slot and in his few appearances hasn’t resembled another nearly 40-ish foreign goalie in MLS, Faryd Mondragon of Philadelphia.
Rost has also suffered an injury, which probably puts Coundoul back in the starting lineup. Let the adventure begin!