- The Washington Times - Friday, April 20, 2007

The New York Red Bulls pulled off a major coup this week, acquiring Colombian striker Juan Pablo Angel from American-owned English club Aston Villa.

The surprise signing could benefit the Red Bulls and the MLS in a big way. Angel is a proven scorer in top-flight English soccer with 62 goals in all competitions and, at 31, still has plenty of soccer left. If Angel can score goals in England against some of the best defenders in the world, then he has the potential to do same in America.

Angel comes to the Red Bulls under the Designated Player (DP) rule, sometimes known as the “Beckham Rule,” which allows a club to spend at will on one player and counts only $400,000 against the salary cap. The Red Bulls already had used their DP card in acquiring Claudio Reyna but were able to get Angel after claiming Chivas USA’s slot in a trade for Amado Guevara.

Like David Beckham, who will join the Galaxy this summer, Angel is an ideal candidate under the new policy. He will attract Hispanic fans to the league and help the perennial struggling Red Bulls finally earn some success. It’s imperative for MLS’ growth that it has a competent team in the New York market.

“It is no secret that we have been searching for a striker since the end of the 2006 season, and Juan Pablo has been at the top of my list since day one,” Red Bulls coach Bruce Arena told the New York media.

Angel may remind Arena of former D.C. United striker Raul Diaz Arce, who scored 23 goals in 28 games for Arena and United in 1996.

Angel joined Villa from Argentine giant River Plate for a team record fee of $19 million in 2001. In the 2003-04 season, he scored 23 goals for the Birmingham-based team.

Former D.C. United defender Jeff Agoos, now technical director for the Red Bulls, was a key player in bringing Angel to America.

Angel is not the only big-name South American star joining MLS this week. High-profile Argentine star Guillermo Barros Schelotto, 33, who won numerous titles with famed Argentina team Boca Juniors, joined the Columbus Crew on Thursday.

In other news, Beckham, who will join MLS in July, is cleared to play for Real Madrid today when his Spanish club plays host to Valencia. The English midfielder has been sidelined for six weeks with a knee injury. Madrid is in third place, five points behind leaders Barcelona and a point ahead of Valencia. Winning the league is Beckham’s only chance of claiming any hardware in his four years with the team.

According to a report by Bloomberg News yesterday, Beckham already has generated $13.3 million in revenue in ticket sales and sponsorships for the Galaxy, which will easily cover his salary for two years.

Also, the rumors about Zinedine Zidane’s future just won’t die. There are reports the Galaxy are trying to lure the retired French star to join his former Madrid teammate in Los Angeles.

“We have contacted his entourage about coming to play for us this year,” Galaxy president Tim Leiweke told Italy’s Gazzetta dello Sport. “He knows our door will always be open. His contract won’t be a problem.”

Euro 2012 — Poland and Ukraine have been chosen to be the hosts of the 2012 European Championships. The choice was a surprise because Italy was the favorite. There also was a combined bid from Croatia and Hungary.

Problems in Italy over crowd violence and a referee scandal may have doomed the World Cup winner’s chances. This will be the first time Poland or Ukraine has played host to a major soccer event.

Women’s World Cup — The top-ranked U.S. team finally will know its opponents at the World Cup in China when the draw is made today in Wuhan.

The American team is seeded and will head up one of the four-team groups, as will hosts China, champion Germany and Norway on Sept. 10-30. The other finalists are: Sweden, Denmark, England, Canada, Japan, North Korea, Australia, Nigeria, New Zealand, Brazil, Argentina and Ghana.

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