MLS Roundup: Eddie Johnson Deal Off, Angel to Chivas, DP Rule Tweaked

After announcing yesterday that they had reached an agreement to bring U.S. striker Eddie Johnson to MLS, league officials stated today that the player had backed out of a verbal agreement to join the league and ended negotiations.

“We had reached agreement, subject to formal documents,” MLS Executive Vice President of Competition and Player Relations Todd Durbin told “It’s unfortunate the player did not want to conclude a formal agreement, but we wish him well in his future endeavors.”

It’s been a tough month for EJ. First, the trouble down in Florida and now this: backing out of a verbal commitment to the league that launched his career. It’s unfortunate, but not entirely surprising for a player who’s been dogged by character issues (click here and see Eric Wynalda’s take in the sidebar) since rising to national prominence in 2001.

• As expected, the Los Angeles Galaxy have shipped Designated Player Juan Pablo Angel out of town to make room for new signing Robbie Keane. Check that: they’ve moved Angel off their team, but he’s staying in town, to become the newest member of the Galaxy’s fellow Home Depot Center tenants, Chivas USA. Chivas sent a third-round pick in the 2012 supplemental draft to LA in exchange for the former Red Bulls star.

• And speaking of Designated Players, MLS this week announced a slight change to the DP rule (also known as the Beckham rule) that will allow teams to acquire young international stars with less risk involved. From the league website:

Beginning in 2012, teams can acquire Designated Players based overseas who are 20 years of age or younger for a budget charge of only $150,000, while Designated Players between the ages of 21 and 23 will count just $200,000 against a team’s salary budget. Current DPs represent a $335,000 hit to a club’s player budget of $2,675,000, regardless of their age.

“We’re hoping that with this rule change we’ll tear down this last barrier of entry and bring in quality players at every place in their career, and truly have the ability to get into the market of young players to be able to bring in and grow stars of the future for Major League Soccer,” said Durbin.

The age classifications are designed to catch young players cycling out of their respective Under-20 and Under-23 national teams. And it’s a rule change for which MLS clubs had been clamoring.

The change will allow MLS teams to take a chance on a promising young international who may need time to develop, and do so without gambling $335,000 of the team’s salary budget.

Los Angeles Signs Ireland Captain Robbie Keane

Reports are trickling in today claiming that Tottenham and Ireland striker Robbie Keane, 31, has agreed to join the Los Angeles Galaxy on a $3 million transfer. LA is expected to announce the signing, for a reported two  years and $9.75 million, later today.

If you’re a Galaxy fan, you have to be pretty fired up about this move. Your team is already tops in the league, and while Keane may have been struggling for playing time with Spurs, he scored two goals in an Ireland friendly against Montenegro on June 4, and should be a significant upgrade over the fading Juan Pablo Angel at forward.

Speaking of, the Galaxy have to offload Angel because Keane is being brought in as a Designated Player and league rules only allow three. (LA currently has David Beckham, Landon Donovan and Angel as DP’s.)

Some reports have claimed Angel will be shipped to Philadelphia, while others say he’s merely headed across town, to Chivas USA.

Stay tuned.

Galaxy Signs Juan Pablo Angel

More than a month after selecting him with the fifth pick in Stage 2 of the MLS Re-Entry Draft, the Los Angeles Galaxy has finally come to terms with former Red Bulls striker Juan Pablo Angel on a multi-year contract.

Angel, 35, is the alltime leading scorer in MetroStars/Red Bull history with 61 goals in all competitions (and 58 goals in 102 regular season matches—not a bad strike rate).

He scored 19 goals in 24 games in 2007, his first season in New York, when he was a finalist for the MVP award. The following year, Angel bagged 14 goals and added two in the playoffs while helping the Red Bulls to an unexpected run to the MLS Cup (they lost 3-1 to Columbus).

Check out the clip below for the best of JPA in New York (after ignoring the tepid ceremony at the start honoring him for surpassing Clint Mathis as the top scorer in MetroBull history):

We will be there when the Galaxy comes to Red Bull Arena this season, and after he gets the standing O he deserves, we’ll sit back down and hope he doesn’t take anything out on the home team.

Galaxy Snaps Up Angel in MLS Re-Entry Draft

The LA Galaxy made a trade with Houston for the right to pick fifth in today’s Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Draft, then used that spot to grab former Red Bulls striker Juan Pablo Angel. LA sent a future fourth-round SuperDraft selection to the Dynamo in exchange for the pick.

The alltime leading scorer in New York history (61 goals), Angel could now partner with U.S. international Edson Buddle up top in LA, with MLS superstars Landon Donovan and David Beckham supporting them in midfield. (Los Angeles coach Bruce Arena helped bring Angel from Aston Villa to New York when Arena coached the Red Bulls.)

The Galaxy—and all other teams who made selections in today’s event—have seven days to make an offer to the players they’ve picked.

While LA’s surprise selection of Angel caused the biggest waves, there was plenty of other action in Stage 2 of the inaugural Re-Entry Draft: DC United took 33-year-old striker Josh Wolff with the first pick, and Chivas USA picked Wolff’s former teammate in Kansas City, centerback Jimmy Conrad, also 33.

Here’s the complete list of players selected:

Round 1

D.C. United: Josh Wolff

Chivas USA: Jimmy Conrad

New England Revolution: Ryan Cochrane

LA Galaxy: Juan Pablo Ángel

Chicago Fire: Cory Gibbs

Sporting Kansas City: Frankie Hejduk

Seattle Sounders: Chris Seitz

Columbus Crew: Jeff Cunningham

LA Galaxy: Luke Sassano

Colorado Rapids: Tyrone Marshall

Round 2

New England Revolution: Fred

Leading the list of players not selected was former Columbus playmaker Guillermo Barros Schelotto. Former LA midfielder Dema Kovalenko, ex-Toronto defender Nick Garcia, and erstwhile Houston keeper Pat Onstad were also passed over.

Every available player not selected today becomes a free agent who can negotiate with any team on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Red Bulls 2, New England, 0: New York Wins Eastern Conference

We have, now, officially, after several seasons of watching his high-speed, low-skill antics, reached the point at which Red Bull winger Dane Richards can be called …  a good player.

A damn good one: He has five goals in his last seven games, and has been the primary spark-provider in New York’s conference-championship stretch run.

When he sat out last week’s Philadelphia game, the Red Bull attack was noticeably listless (that was partly due to their 4-5-1 first-half formation, but they definitely missed The Dane).

Back in the lineup in front of a decent Thursday-night crowd at Red Bull Arena yesterday, Richards opened the scoring 17 minutes in, taking an excellent pass from Juan Pablo Angel, streaking to the top of the box, and rifling a shot over New England keeper Bobby Shuttleworth (no relation to Jesus).

Joel Lindpere salted away the win with a nice cutback and goal (and New England’s Chris Tierney clearly kept him onside, double-check the replay below) in stoppage time.

The victory clinched playoff homefield advantage for the Red Bulls, and it also tied their own MLS record for best single-year improvement (10 wins), set in 2000.

Lindpere’s capper could not have been more appropriate: He scored the first regular-season goal at Red Bull Arena on March 27, and last night, he bagged the last. In between, he was the most consistent performer for the team, hands-down.

Also of note, before we get to the highlights—Juan Pablo Angel looked good, holding the ball up well, and sending out several other nice passes in addition to the one that set up Richards. After the game, New England midfielder Shalrie Joseph (who outplayed Rafa Marquez, btw), responded to the recent talk that Angel will not be back next season, telling

“I think it would be really stupid to let Angel go. In my eyes, he is definitely one of the top three scorers in this league. He does so much for that team. For him not to re-sign would be a sad loss, but if he leaves, hopefully our team and organization can make a bid for him.”

We tend to agree—and Angel has certainly been much healthier than Thierry Henry this season.

Okay, highlights:

Back Off Andrea Pirlo and He Will Make You Pay

Backpost reader Ref Baiter calls this “hands down one of the Top 5 strikes I have seen in years.”

It’s Andrea Pirlo’s 40-yard tracer into the upper 90 for AC Milan against Parma on Saturday:

Not too shabby. We would never argue with the RB (we leave that to the referees), but here are five goals from the past year that give Pirlo’s strike a run for the money:

1. Giovanni van Bronckhorst’s World Cup semifinal rocket:

2. Danny Rose’s full volley against Arsenal (London derby; Premier League debut; and we agree with the cat):

3. Clint Dempsey’s Europa League far-post chip (put Fulham into the final):

4. Alex’s free kick vs Arsenal on Sunday (Powerful, swerving, unstoppable—like the Ref Baiter after a few pints):

 5. Juan Pablo Angel’s last-second game-winner vs Houston (definition of clutch; and a little love for MLS….):

Those are some golazos. Long may they survive copyright claims.

PS: U.S. defender Oguchi Onyewu did not dress for Milan’s 1-0 win over Parma. He has yet to play this season.