MLS may have made more waves in Medellin than it did in New York City this week.
For much of the news cycle this week, the buzz has revolved around a trio of Colombians. It isn't a particularly new concept for a league that once boasted Juan Toja and Carlos Valderrama among its ranks and currently counts Fredy Montero as one of its glittering stars, but it is somewhat surprising to see one of South America's sleeping giants so thoroughly dominate headlines this week.
As many MLS teams prepare to start their training camps, the Friday Five opts to review a rather frenetic week for those invested in Colombian-American ties within the U.S. top flight:
1. The odds always favored Bruce Arena finding a way to get Juan Pablo Angel signed: From the moment Los Angeles chose Angel in stage two of the Re-Entry Process, it looked like the Galaxy would concoct some way to get the deal done. Those inklings increased substantially after Edson Buddle's departure to Ingolstadt (Germany) increased the Galaxy's urgency to strike an agreement. The terms of the deal didn't necessarily matter – Los Angeles can always afford to guarantee a second year or offer a Designated Player-level deal with its resources and the corresponding budget hit of any likely agreement – but Arena needed to persuade Angel to leave the East Coast to bolster the Galaxy's MLS Cup push in 2011. It took a bit longer than many expected, but Arena got his man and the Galaxy looks considerably stronger for it.
2. Will Angel provide enough punch to power the Galaxy's attack?: Even the most fervent of Angel fans noted his ineffectiveness during the second half of last season. The 35-year-old striker will have to ward off the onrushing tides of time again this campaign, but he still has plenty to contribute if his 13 goals during the 2010 season provide any indication. Angel can count on improved service from Landon Donovan and David Beckham as he attempts to match that tally and replace the majority of Buddle's production from last season. One thing is certain as the Galaxy approaches next season: the additions of Angel and Chad Barrett should give Arena the wherewithal to play Donovan in his most threatening role as a roving midfielder charged with creating havoc in the attacking third.
3. Faryd Mondragon should finally end the revolving door between the sticks at PPL Park: Aging foreign goalkeepers are always a bit of a punt for MLS clubs, but Philadelphia's decision to sign 39-year-old Mondragon probably makes more sense than the usual gamble. The former FC Cologne goalkeeper gives the Union an undisputed number one after shuffling between Brad Knighton and Chris Seitz last season. More to the point, the limited shelf life of the Colombia goalkeeper creates a natural succession path for recent first-round pick Zac MacMath to develop his skills before ascending to the first team in the next two to three seasons.
4. Common ground should improve Philadelphia's disheveled defensive organization: Mondragon gives the Union a much-needed controlling presence at the back. His brand of vocal instruction should help to keep the often-scattershot Union back four on the same page as Philly manager Peter Nowak sorts out his best lineup for next season. The current arrangement look a bit crowded in central defense with new arrival Carlos Valdes set to join the expensive combo of Danny Califf and Juan Diego Gonzalez, but Nowak should now possess the pieces to improve a rather woeful defensive group from the club's inaugural season.
5. Credit the connections for paving the way for Philadelphia's Colombian swoop: Former Chicago and Kansas City midfielder Diego Guiterrez retired after the 2008 season and transitioned into life as a player agent. The Bogota-born Gutierrez developed connections on two continents while representing the likes of former Chicago defender Wilman Conde for the next two years. Those links came in handy when the Union and its new head of scouting and player development went searching to bolster the roster in time for the upcoming season.
“Look, I’d like to think that I bring a little more to the table than just bringing in Colombian players,” Gutierrez told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “But having known Faryd and having known Carlos was a big factor. At the end of the day, it’s not just about getting Colombian players. Our view of the market is very, very large. As we narrowed down prospects and candidates to bring in, they just happened to be Colombian.”Kyle McCarthy writes the Monday MLS Breakdown and frequently writes opinion pieces during the week for Goal.com. He also covers the New England Revolution for the Boston Herald and MLSsoccer.com. Contact him with your questions or comments at email@example.com follow him on Twitter by clicking here.
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