The Galaxy made a big splash in the second phase of Major League Soccer's re-entry draft Wednesday, taking New York Red Bulls striker Juan Pablo Angel -- arguably the finest target forward ever to play in the league -- after making a trade with Houston to move up to fourth in the draft.
The 35-year-old Colombian, who joined the Red Bulls when Galaxy coach Bruce Arena was in charge in New York, has scored 61 goals in four seasons for New York.
His contract, for $1.62 million (with $1.918 million guaranteed compensation), was not renewed, and the Galaxy will be able to negotiate a new pact with the tall striker.
“In the re-entry draft, all teams are doing is acquiring rights to players,” Arena said on a teleconference Wednesday afternoon. “There's still a negotiating period to see if we can reach an agreement. … We think he's a very fine forward, and we're hopeful we can reach an agreement. …
“The reason we took him in the re-entry draft is we think we can make it work. I think Juan wants to make it work, but we have to get in some discussions this week and see if we can reach an agreement.”
The Galaxy also selected Red Bulls midfielder Luke Sassano, and Chivas USA took Kansas City central defender Jimmy Conrad (Temple City/Temple City HS and UCLA).
Galaxy midfielder Dema Kovalenko and Chivas USA midfielder Marcelo Saragosa and defender Alex Zotinca weren't drafted and become free agents. So do Colorado midfielder Peter Vagenas (Pasadena/St. Francis HS and UCLA) and Columbus midfielder Duncan Oughton (Cal State Fullerton).
Arena said he has spoken twice with Angel in recent weeks and believes a deal can be made despite the forward's stated desire to remain on the East Coast. If signed, Angel likely would be a Designated Player, which would all but end any chance of L.A. acquiring Brazilian forward Ronaldinho.
“I would think there's a chance he's certainly going to be a designated player, but we haven't gotten into those discussions,” Arena said. “My guess is if we sign him, he'll likely have that designation.”
Arena said Angel and Galaxy forward Edson Buddle, also a tall target forward, could be complementary players up top. (Buddle, by the way, is training with England's Birmingham City until Dec. 22.)
“I believe those two forwards could work well together,” Arena said. “I don't want to be terribly specific about anything until [Angel is] in the fold. We all know Juan can score goals. He's very good in front of goal. He can hold the ball up. Even though Edson is similar, I think they can be a good duo if they get on the field together.”
If it happens, figure Landon Donovan will continue to play in midfield, probably on the left flank.
The Galaxy traded their fourth-round pick in the 2014 MLS SuperDraft for Houston's No. 4 selection in the Wednesday's second phase to “make sure [we had] a chance to get Juan if he was there,” Arena said.
Angel also was a regular scorer in stints with Colombia's Atletico Nacional, Argentina's River Plate and England's Aston Villa, netting 135 goals in 14 seasons for the three clubs.
Sassano, 25, who was limited to three games before undergoing a right-ankle reconstruction in August. He's played in 42 games in three MLS seasons.
“He's a good young player,” Arena said. “For his age, he has a lot of experience. We know he's coming off an injury, but, hopefully, he'll be fine. All indications are he should be fine next year.”
Arena said he would not address reports that Ronaldinho, who plays for AC Milan in Italy, will be joining the Galaxy next season -- “It's improper on my part to comment publicly about a player under contract to another team,” he said -- but when asked if signing Angel would end any chance of the Brazilian star coming to L.A., he said: “I would not say that at this point.”
Conrad, 34, is a four-time MLS Best XI selection (most recent: 2008) and was the 2005 MLS Defender of the Year. The 12-year veteran and former K.C. captain played in the 2006 World Cup.
“Jimmy is a talented, experienced defender who can give this organization a lot both on the field and in the locker room,” Chivas interim general manager Jose Domene said in a statement. “We’re hopeful that we can agree to a new contract for him and that he’ll play an important role for the Red and White in 2011.”
Former UCLA star Frankie Hejduk, a defender for Columbus, was taken by Kansas City, and Seattle grabbed Philadelphia goalkeeper Chris Seitz, who attended Thousand Oaks High School and played for Real So Cal. Former Galaxy defender Tyrone Marshall moves from Seattle to Colorado.
D.C. United made Kansas City forward Josh Wolff, who played for the U.S. in the 2006 World Cup, the first selection. Conrad was taken second, Houston defender Ryan Cochrane third (by New England), Angel fourth and New England defender Cory Gibbs fifth (by Chicago).
Also drafted: FC Dallas forward Jeff Cunningham by Columbus and Philadelphia midfielder Fred by New England.
UPDATE: After the draft, the Galaxy sent the rights to Sassano to Kansas City for the rights to Hejduk, and Seattle sent the rights to Seitz to FC Dallas for a 2012 fourth-round draft pick.