I had a sidebar piece for espn.com that never made the website (it basically got devoured in the Beckham coverage) so I've posted some of it here.
Juan Pablo Angel doesn’t have the international reputation of David Beckham, but his credentials to be a marquee player in Major League Soccer grow daily.
Against Celtic FC, the European opponent of the MLS All-Stars, Angel showed what a threat he is as a forward with a quality finishing touch.
While his compatriot Juan Toja showed at times more enthusiasm than control, Angel was dangerous from the start of the match and played with the dedication of something to prove. Angel’s goal, after Eddie Johnson’s penalty miss had taken some of the momentum of the MLS squad away, displayed his skill, coolness and awareness.
“We had arguably the best players in the league,” said Angel after the match. “We said that there’s no such thing as a friendly game in this league any more. We wanted to be out there and do it right. We played well and we were the better team on the night and we fully deserved to win.”
In only two short months with the league, Angel has been apprised of the low status many place on MLS. It’s possible that it contributed to his not being selected for the Colombian Copa
“Playing against one of the top European teams and beating them in style I think is good for the league,” said Angel.
All-Star and New England Revolution coach Steve Nicol praised Angel in particular, while at the same time defending MLS.
“We’ve come a long way in 11 years and we may be on the threshold of taking that extra step,” said Nicol. “It’s great that we have Juan (Pablo Angel) and Beckham coming in. That professionalism that Juan shows, all the young guys in the league will only get better learning from that. The American players are going to learn to be better professionals, better equipped to take on better teams.”
The All-Star game was also notable for the enthusiastic atmosphere that welcomed the MLS players. Angel, who sometimes plays before sparse crowds in
“I’ve been here only two months and to be able to play in the All-Star game, it’s a great experience,” said Angel. “It makes me look forward to the rest of my time here. I want to be involved next year again.”
If the praise of his All-Star teammates is any indication, Angel can look forward to many more outings.
“He’s top class,” said Eddie Pope. “The way he prepares himself on the field, his hard work, his finishing, everything is absolutely pristine.”
Some observers have noted that Angel’s skills indicated that he could have continued his career with another European team if he had not come to MLS.
“Everything happened really quick,” said Angel of his choice of the league. “I haven’t had the chance to think about it. It’s been hectic time for me since I got here. I’m happy. I have respect for Aston Villa - they’ve been great to me in my career, but this is a new challenge and I’m really looking forward to it.”
Thus far, it seems Angel has more than met the challenge.
“He’s unheralded, in terms of what he brings to the league,” said Jimmy Conrad. “He’s such a hard worker.”