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Mid-Day Musings: On Emilio-Angel, Honduran prospects and more

Luciano Emilio (AP) 

It's a slow day on the news front, at least today relative to Tuesday's menu of car-bombings, outed affairs and the most recent Mexican player shooting. The days after the close of the winter transfer window usually are on the slow side, but there are some topics to discuss.

I will be looking to post the latest installment of Your Questions Answered shortly, but I wanted to go over a few things to give you all something new to discuss. Let's get started:


D.C. United Kevin Payne is one of the most well-respected front office folks in Major League Soccer, but he lost the plot with his recent comments comparing now-former D.C. United striker Luciano Emilio and New York Red Bulls striker Juan Pablo Angel.

"Luciano Emilio was a DP and he scored a lot more goals than Juan Pablo Angel," Payne told "Some people questioned whether Luci was a DP. You've got to look at the numbers. He scored 50-plus goals for us in all competitions."

What Payne seems to have forgotten was that many of those goals came in Emilio's first MLS season, when he actually wasn't a Designated Player. In the two seasons Emilio spent as a Designated Player, he produced 21 goals in 54 MLS matches, a good scoring rate but hardly a dominating rate playing in one of the league's better offenses. To Emilio's credit, he did post seven goals outside MLS competition and did help D.C. United win a U.S. Open Cup in 2008, but D.C. United also missed the playoffs both years Emilio was on the books as a DP.

Emilio scored more combined goals than Angel during his three seasons with D.C., but he also benefited from playing in more than two dozen more matches than Angel thanks to D.C.'s involvement in competitions such as the Champions League and SuperLiga. Ultimately, when you break down just MLS matches (including playoffs), Angel has scored 47 in 78 matches in three seasons while Emilio managed 41 in 83 matches.

Emilio deserves credit for being such a productive forward during his time in MLS, but he was always an inferior forward to Angel and the fact remains that when Emilio was a Designated Player he was a disappointment. That is ultimtely why he is no longer with D.C. United. To imply that he was a better Designated Player signing than Angel, the most productive and most successful DP in terms of on-field production in MLS history, is a serious stretch.

The reality is that you would be hard-pressed to find an MLS team that wouldn't have preferred Angel over Emilio at any point in Emilio's three seasons in MLS. Something tells me even Payne himself would have swapped Emilio for Angel if given the chance.


You wouldn't think of the Chinese Soccer Leagues as being in competition with MLS for players, but recent news that Honduran national team players Jerry Palacios and Mauricio Sabillon have gone to play in China leaves me wondering how that happened. Palacios and Sabillon are two highly-regarded players in Central America and would certainly be able to help teams in MLS, but both departed for China after taking part in Honduras' 3-1 exhibition win against the United States.

It is one thing to be outbid by Europe for players such as Wilson Palacios, Maynor Figueroa and Hendry Thomas, but losing Honduran prospects to China makes you wonder if this is a sign of things to come. It could just be a passing fad, and Palacios and Sabillon could very well still wind up in MLS one day if their Chinese adventure falls flat, but it is something to think about.

To be fair to MLS, it has done well to tap into the Salvadoran market with signings such as Cristian Castillo and Osael Romero, but MLS can't afford to completely be shut out of the Honduran player market because the tiny Central American nation continues to produce good talent.


The Chicago Fire scored one of the best hauls at the 2010 MLS Draft, but its collection of rookies could get even better now that undrafted free agents Mark Blades and Jovan Bubonja are in camp.

Blades is a promising fullback prospect whose size (5-foot-6) led to him being passed over on draft day while Bubonja was a highly-regarded goalkeeper prospect who went from top draft candidate in 2009 to undrafted in 2010 after a disappointing senior season at Illinois-Chicago and a lackluster MLS Combine.

Both players face stiff competition to make the Fire roster, but the fire just might wind up finding a gem or two.


What do you think of these topics? Agree with the Emilio-Angel comparison? Worried about MLS losing foreign prospects to China? Like what Chicago is doing with its pre-season roster?


  1. Sorry Bill, Emilio’s 1st touch has always been inconsistent – though it did get worse when he lost his two footed scoring touch…anyone can get the yips, but when you already give the ball away too much that spells disaster.

  2. I’m sorry but it must be said re: Emilio vs. Angel that there is another major difference here that is being neglected.

    Sure Emilio played more games, but he also wasn’t the ONLY option. RBNY has been predicated on feeding the ball to Angel at any costs. DC has always had more than one player who fancies themselves a goal scorer and they don’t always exactly spread the ball around.

    Beyond that, last time I checked, JPA was RBNY’s PK taker and Moreno has been DCU’s PK taker forever.

    I’m not saying necessarily that I would take Emilion over JPA but it’s not as ‘clear cut’ as it seems. I haven’t thought much of JPA beyond his first year either to be frank. What did he play last year 3 games? C’mon…

  3. Ives the thing with Central Americans is the pay. Believe it or not an example is Marco Pappa and even Ruiz when he got here. They both received less money than what they got or earned in Guatemala. China is my understanding pays good. They also love Brasilians. They are ambitious.

  4. Kevin Payne knows just about as much about soccer as your Aunt Sally and is intent on proving it with silly comments to the press. Remember the one about Salt Lake playing inferior, negative soccer? Moreover, Kevin and his boy Dave Kasper persuaded their boss to spend millions on a bunch of underperforming imports over the last two years. He figures that if he keeps saying that it was worth the money, someone might believe him.

  5. Ive’s, ok – perhaps I do assume too much that you’re biased. Your point is well taken – what GM would take Emilio over Angel? probably none (again – we’re not comparing same dollar value nor ‘position’ so – perhaps some would given their current roster/needs).

    Over-all, I’d still say DC had a top-notch player that did garnish a fair amount of results (individually and for the team) – and THAT is decent way to make a comparison between the two players. (my opinion, it’s not a stretch). Perhaps, I’m being biased?

    (SBI-Again, I’ve got no problem with saying the two had comparable results over the course of three years. My issue was with Kevin Payne’s suggestion that Luciano Emilio was much more productive than Juan Pablo Angel when he said he scored “a lot more goals”. I found it to be a very misleading statement and it left me wondering why Payne felt compelled to mention Angel at all.

    The last thing I’ll say about the Emilio-Angel comparison is that I have absolutely no doubt that if you put Angel on D.C. United over the past three seasons he probably has 60 or more combined goals in all competitions. D.C. has simply had better offensive players around Emilio than NY has had around Angel.)

  6. Aaron, you are correct.

    The J-League does have far better support from fans/tv than MLS.

    I do claim that some of their revenues are of the Chelsea/Man City variety of corporate owners whom don’t care if they lose money.

    Overall the J-League’s salary structure is several times MLS. “Bare” was one of the players I’d hoped would come over to MLS.

  7. The fire drafted the best golie in the draft from USF…….if Bobonja was better than him he would have gotten drafted. The kid went to school 25 minutes from TP, I’m sure they have seen plenty of him. My guess is that they will use him as bait for something else if he does reasonably well in the preseason.

  8. Honestly when was the last time that YOU actually WATCHED a game from China??????? C’mon I cant even find streaming coverage of the Copa Lib. over here……it sucks to loose potential contributors to China, but I’m sure its not because their teams play so well.

  9. Exactly. This is no different from the large number of Americans playing in Germany and Norway. Honduran players have been starring for Chinese clubs for a long time.

  10. As mentioned about former Honduran national team players like Emil Martinez and Samuel Caballero have played in China. I think Walter Martinez (forward) and a number of other Hondurans have played on China as well. This is a pipeline like any other. The MLS does not have cache even in Central America let alone in South America, so if they can earn more money in an Asian league, a South American league (if I am not mistaken Osman Chavez played in Argentina), or a smaller Euro league these players will not be coming to the MLS.

  11. “Angel, the most productive and most successful DP in terms of on-field production in MLS history, is a serious stretch.”


    No, you rolled this argument out when Angel got signed to his extension and it was an exaggeration then and it still is.

    (SBI-Who’s been better?)

  12. Also to point out that DC won the supporters shield that year. Easier to score on a the leagues best team… NY entered the playoffs through as a heavy underdog and slipped right out in the first round.

  13. Here are the stats from 3 yrs. ago. I guess you forgot that Emilio had more games than Angel and that he finished just 1 goal under Emilio.
    Luciano Emilio DC 29 20
    Juan Pablo Angel NY 24 19

  14. If you figure in that Angel took a very average team to a MLS Cup final, while DC didn’t make the playoffs while Emilio was a DP, I’d say that kinda refutes your argument.

  15. How has Angel been overrated when he has scored more goals than any other player since his arrival in ’07? Also noting that he has been on the worst team in MLS!

  16. I don’t buy it, at least not in every case. Look at the guys we have in our ownership pool: Kroenke (Rapids), Philip Anschutz/AEG (down to just LA and Houston now), Paul Allen (sounders), Dave Checketts (RSL, also owns Blues in NHL and trying to acquire the Rams), and more. That is some major cash and some savvy investors.

    The money is there, the League and the Owners just aren’t spending. While it probably bodes well for longterm success that our owners aren’t mortgaging the future of the league, it sure makes it frustrating for fans to watch it develop at this pace while the Man City’s of the world go ape.

  17. Ives, you are a bit generous to 29 year old Jerry Palacios and 31 year old Sabillon by calling them “prospects.” They are solid players, but in terms of age and talent they don’t have much of an upside. These are not guys who are on the way to EPL, La Liga or Serie A and would fetch a nice transfer fee. With smaller MLS roster sizes, I’d rather see the teams use their roster spots on developing young homegrown players. If MLS tried to sign a talented young player from abroad (like F. Montero) and lost him to China, then you have a point. By the way, did any MLS team make an offer to Palacios or Sabillon?

    (SBI-I didn’t say they were YOUNG prospects, but anybody who a league or team COULD sign is a prospect. I just found it interesting that these guys, who could certainly make an MLS roster, wouldn’t be in MLS rather than China. As for offers, I have heard of Palacios receiving interest, not sure from which teams specifically.)

  18. “but D.C. United also missed the playoffs both years Emilio was on the books as a DP”

    I think that is irrelevant when grading Emilio. Using that logic then you would have to rate Angel way down after what the Red Bulls do last season.

  19. i havent read all the comments but one has to imagine that the money funding the chinese teams is significantly greater, that being said it doesnt negate the fact that the chinese league is also incredibly corrupt (which might also be a draw as players could get money through bribes). Just food for thought.

  20. Angel made a much bigger difference to NY than Emilio did to DC. DC was still a pretty good team without Emilio. NY was worthless without Angel. He singlehandedly willed them to the playoffs.

  21. Wait, ives, your major rebuttal is the technicality that Emilio wasn’t (paid like) a DP in his first year?

    Payne’s larger point is still true – Emilio was a far better player over the duration of his DCU career than most people give him credit for. He scored a ton of goals for DCU. His production tailed off during his last year, but he’s a forward who thrives on service, and our midfield simply didn’t provide enough of it.

    He still doesn’t stack up to JPA – one of my favorite players in the league despite being a Red Bull. JPA always impressed me greatly – of course for his play as a striker, but also because he just oozed class and professionalism.

    It’s become fashionable to denigrate Emilio for some reason. I don’t buy it. He was very good player for us. I wish him well.

  22. Bill, you also forget that Angel was suffering thru a nerve injury and concussion. When on the field he was suffering thru a lack of service if he didn’t create on his own.

    So in other words In favor of Angel. 1 PT.

  23. Having lived in China for a brief time, I don’t expect an exodus or even any large-scale competition between MLS and China. Especially for U.S. and European players, the culture shock alone would turn away most. Unless the money was outrageous, I think most Americans would enjoy a higher quality of life here.

    Beyond that, there is no soccer culture in China. There is a romance or mystique about going to Europe. You know they have the top facilities and fans who are passionate on a different level than in MLS. But China offers neither of those.

    I think MLS is most comparable to Japan or Australia, but for the most part I haven’t even noticed much competition between those three leagues for players at this point. Much less domestic players.


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