Ángel and the Rapids? Not out of the question

Despite depth at striker, Rapids looking for improved quality

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. - Everybody seems to be lining up these days for a piece of Juan Pablo Angel.

The New York Red Bulls striker probably played his last regular season game for his club Thursday night as a 2-0 victory over New England Revolution gave them the Eastern Conference regular season crown. After the game, Shalrie Joseph said he would love to see the Colombian in Foxborough. FC Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman has made it clear there is a place in Texas for him. This is all on top of recent reports from ESPN’s Allen Hopkins that four clubs have already been in discussions with Angel about 2011 – DC United, Seattle Sounders, the LA Galaxy and the Colorado Rapids.

Yes, that’s right, the Colorado Rapids. The seemingly least fashionable team in the MLS has been in discussions with one of the most prolific strikers in the history of the league.

“It’s good that the club as a whole is seeing the route and progress we are making,” Gary Smith told MLSsoccer.com this week. “We have to keep adding better and more productive players.”

Ángel has scored 58 goals for the Red Bulls since 2007, scoring at least 12 goals in every one of his MLS seasons. His production has dropped off recently, however, with the striker failing to score from the run of play since July 31 against the Houston Dynamo.

“Over the next two years, he will be scoring goals wherever he is,” Smith said of Ángel. “He’s like [former Manchester United and England striker Teddy] Sheringham in that his movement is impeccable and his techniques are so efficient. For both of them, their games are based on wonderful movement and intelligence.”

The question for Colorado is where Ángel would fit in. The Rapids recently traded with New York for Macoumba Kandji and the Rapids see him as a long-term prospect. With Omar Cummings potentially being snapped up by foreign suitors this offseason, Kandji would serve as a replacement.

Conor Casey signed a multi-year deal at the start of this season which could take him to the end of his career in Colorado. The bench is well stocked with strikers in Ross Schunk, Quincy Amarikwa and Andre Akpan. Smith said the coaching staff feels the latter two are “improving all the time.” Schunk has been out injured all season.

Smith said he wasn’t worried for now about having too many forwards on the books. The real issue was quality. He would have no problems even using a rotation system to give his starting forwards a rest when needed, citing the example of Dominic Kinnear at Houston. Kinnear would rotate Brian Ching, Nate Jaqua and Dwayne De Rosario as needed, and his system won two MLS Cups for the Dynamo.

For now, Smith’s and Ángel’s focuses are on the playoffs and there won’t be any substantive discussions until the offseason.

The Rapids take on Real Salt Lake tomorrow night for their final regular season game. A win there and the Rapids could even be playing Ángel and New York in the playoffs.