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Angel, Cunningham jump off the Re-Entry Draft list page

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Two names stick out on the list of players who are available for the first-ever Re-Entry Draft, which goes Dec. 8. Juan Pablo Angel currently holds the title as the best Designated Player signing in MLS history. Jeff Cunningham is one goal behind Jaime Moreno for the all-time career lead in goals.

Both are on the list of players whose options were not picked up or are out of contract and are eligible to be selected in the Re-Entry Draft. But, when it comes to personality, the two players couldn’t be more different.

It’s hard to imagine any MLS fan not pulling for Angel to get a job. Even though he’s in his mid-30s, Angel is still productive. In the last four seasons, he has been the most consistent striker in MLS. His goal totals — 19, 14, 12, 13 — speak to how good he has been, even though for the first three of those seasons he was basically the lone threat up front for the Red Bulls. I recall seeing the Red Bulls on a rainy, miserable night in 2009. They were still in the cold, concrete monstrosity that was Giants Stadium. Angel was the only attraction on offer on a Red Bulls teams that was too awful to be forgettable.

In 2010, when Rafa Marquez and Thierry Henry were brought on board for roughly than US$11 million, Angel, despite having an MLS resume that outstrips any other DP in league history, was the odd man out.

Even though he saw the writing on the wall, Angel was nothing but diplomatic about his situation. He consistently praised the Red Bulls publicly for going the three-DP route. He never stopped being an ambassador for MLS, and the league. His head was held high even when he admitted that he knew that 2010 would be his last season in New York.

If any team selects him in the Dec. 8 opening round of the Re-Entry Draft, it would have to give him DP money. A player cannot take a pay cut if taken in the first round of the Re-Entry Draft, so Angel would be on board for a contract in the US$1.9 million range. It could be a gamble worth taking.

As for Cunningham, it would be hard to find a player in any North American pro sport who fans would cheer harder against not to break significant record. Cunningham, cut loose by FC Dallas, where he won a scoring title in 2009, is one goal off the all-time goal-scoring mark. But Cunningham, in the eyes of many long-time MLS supporters, has always been the villain. When he came on as a sub for FCD at the 2010 MLS Cup, his every touch was met with a chorus of boos from the fans at BMO Field. Toronto FC fans remember him not just as a man who lost his Midas scoring touch in the parts of two lamentable seasons he spent with the club, they remember him as the man who always ducked the media, who was never to be spotted in the dressing room after a game.

In Dallas, as he chased the goal-scoring record — which MLS needed to turn into a public-relations exercise — Cunningham decided it was time to stop talking to the media. He kept that silence until after the final whistle of the championship game.

In a time when MLS needed one of its stars to speak up, Cunningham disappeared back into the cloak of mystery that’s been a part of his repertoire for so long. Because of that, it’s hard to mention him alongside Moreno and the other great MLS goal-getters, like Jason Kreis or Taylor Twellman. Cunningham has never taken on the role to be an ambassador for a league that needs its stars to sell the game whenever they get the chance to do so.

So, Cunningham cannot find it surprising if there isn’t a whole lot of sadness if he doesn’t get picked up — that he doesn’t get the chance to break arguably the league’s most sacred record. For Canadian fans on the watch, Toronto FC is sixth in the waiver order. As an expansion team, the Vancouver Whitecaps have the 17th out of 18 spots.

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