Angulo becomes league's top scorer for playoff-bound Riverhounds
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The first year of Highmark Stadium has been a breakout year, not just for the playoff-bound Riverhounds, but also for their leading scorer.
Jose Angulo enters the final weekend of the regular season as the leading scorer in USL Pro with 32 points, and his 14 goals put the striker second in the league and among the team's top-10 career goal scorers after just one season.
Angulo has a four-point lead over any player who can catch him for the scoring title. He is one goal shy of Orlando City's Dominic Dwyer, who amassed 31 points and 15 goals before returning to Sporting Kansas City of MLS.
Angulo's goal total is his highest in a pro season, and comes after spending last year with the New York Red Bulls of MLS but not appearing in a league game.
“Last year, it was a bit frustrating not getting a lot of playing time,” Angulo said. “I'm the kind of player that once I get my confidence on the field, it keeps growing and growing. So far this year, it's really been going well for me.”
At 25 years old, Angulo is just starting to hit the prime age for a goal scorer. The Colombian-born striker's father was a professional player, and Angulo showed that strong pedigree growing up in New Jersey, where he was a high school All-American and two-time national champ at St. Benedict's Prep in 2005-06.
He turned pro straight out of high school but didn't spend a full season with a pro team until 2011, when he led Harrisburg to the USL Pro final with nine goals. Though his stint with the Red Bulls in 2012 didn't yield any MLS playing time, it gave Angulo a chance to train alongside two accomplished teammates — Thierry Henry, the all-time leading goal scorer for the French national team, and Tim Cahill, who is one goal away from holding that distinction for Australia.
“As a striker, being next to a guy like Henry every day in training, you pick up a lot of things that I've been able to use,” Angulo said. “I remember when Tim Cahill came (to the Red Bulls), his aerial ability was something I wanted to bring to my game, and I've scored a lot of headed goals this season.”
Angulo's talent led Pittsburgh to sign him late in the offseason, but he improved on more than just his finishing.
“I think the most important talk I had with him was to tell him to carry himself as a professional and take care of himself,” Riverhounds coach Justin Evans said. “He came in, and he wasn't fit. We gave him extra work with our speed and strength guy for about two weeks, and he's taken that to heart. We let him go from the extra sessions after two weeks, and he's carried it on himself throughout the season.”
Evans' advice might end up knocking him down a peg on the 'Hounds' all-time scoring list. The former midfielder entered the year tied with Michael Butler for seventh in team history with 14 goals; now, it's a three-way tie after Angulo's tally Wednesday night in a loss at Wilmington.
How much more Angulo adds to his 'Hounds total is up in the air. The Riverhounds have at least two more games this season — Saturday vs. Richmond and a USL Pro quarterfinal — but with Angulo's strike rate, he could be an attractive target for an MLS team to scoop up during the offseason.
“We're not a top division team, and if a year here helps him advance his career, then good for him,” Evans said.
“Coming here to Pittsburgh was a great move for my career. I didn't know anything about it before I got here, but it's a great sports city,” Angulo said. “Right now, I haven't even thought about moving forward. I'm just thinking about this year and doing well in the USL Pro playoffs.”
Matt Grubba is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @Grubba_Trib.
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