Tomas Angel flight 032024

part of an ongoing series that introduces LAFC players in their own words

I was born in Birmingham, England, in 2003, when my dad, Juan Pablo Ángel, was playing for English Premier League club Aston Villa. It’s important to get this part of my story out of the way first: my dad is one of the greatest Colombian players ever, appearing in more than 170 Premier League matches and earning 33 caps and scoring nine goals for his country. 

I’m not going to lie; it has been challenging at times to have a father of his stature. But the pressure of growing up in his shadow has made me a stronger person. Also, I’m grateful to have an advisor who not only knows the sport as well as he does – both the sporting and the business side – but who has my best interests at heart. 

I don’t remember much about my toddler years in England other than the cold weather, and the big stadium where Aston Villa played. Some of my earliest memories were formed in the childrens’ nursery at Villa Park, hearing the crowd roar during games against Premier League giants like Man United and Liverpool. I can still hear that sound.

We moved to the United States after my dad signed with New York Red Bulls in 2007. After four years in New York, he played one season for the Galaxy, then two more for Chivas USA before he returned to Colombia to finish his career where it started, at Atletico Nacional, his hometown club in Medellín. More on that in a minute.

Juan Pablo Angel
Juan Pablo Angel

I was nine when we moved to Colombia. The UK and the US were all I had experienced to that point, so I didn’t speak Spanish very well. Colombia felt like home to me, but it also felt completely foreign. It was a change of culture, for sure, but it was also an important transition in my life. In the States, soccer wasn’t a matter of life and death. Colombia was different. My first few months in Medellín were rough. Soccer in South America is much more physical. They hit you, they challenge your toughness. Looking back on it now, it was the best thing I could have experienced.

Those early days in Medellín gave me a fire inside. Even now, each time I’m in a new competitive atmosphere I set the bar high. I’m not there to goof around. I want to win. I want to leave my name written in history, wherever I go. That’s one of the reasons I came to LAFC.

The first time I ever heard of LAFC, I was about 15. It was the club’s first season, and they were interested in signing a Colombian midfielder named Eduard Atuesta. My dad, who has performed extensive scouting work for LAFC over the years, was involved in the Atuesta-LAFC marriage, which as we know went very well.

LAFC intrigued me from the beginning. I watched a few games in those early seasons (2018-19) and was amazed by this young MLS club that was having so much success, so soon. When you’re a player and you come from a team with a lot of success—like Atletico Nacional, my dad’s club and the one I played for prior to coming here—you want your next step to be to a team that’s always near the top of the table, always playing in finals, playing to win. Expecting to win.

Colombia has a population of more than 50 million, but it’s a small country in many ways. In Colombian soccer, everybody knows everybody. I first met Atuesta when I was a teenager and he was playing in Medellín (for first-division club Independiente). He’s six years older than I am, and we were with rival clubs, but off the field we were good. And now we’re teammates.

Highlights | Tomás Ángel

Atletico Nacional, one of the most storied clubs in Colombia’s first division, provided me with a valuable experience that, even though it was tough at times, made me a better player. They wanted me to change positions, from my usual “number 9” center forward spot to playing out on the wing. I struggled. The team struggled. But I will forever be grateful to Atletico Nacional. They gave me my professional debut; they gave me seven or eight months where I could show enough talent to get invited to represent Colombia in the U20 World Cup. My performance in that tournament helped me end up here in LA, with this amazing club.

Point is: every experience – even uncomfortable ones – can shape your life in a positive way. My story is proof of that. It’s a story that wouldn’t be complete without my mom’s influence. The majority of my accomplishments are due to her. She is the only girl in a family of four males (me, my dad, and my two brothers). Only a strong person could survive and thrive in that setting. She means everything to me.

Tomas Angel family
Tomás Ángel with his family.

My younger brother Pascual is ten. He’s just beginning his soccer journey. (My older brother Gerónimo, 23, is a dancer and recording artist.) Pascual plays with a U10 development academy in Colombia. He’s entering a world of pressure, and even though he’s young, he’s mentally strong. This sport can beat you up. The players who endure its difficult moments are the ones who last.

I was in a difficult moment last winter. My time at Atletico Nacional was coming to an end, and it had not gone the way I envisioned. That’s when LAFC invited me to attend the MLS Cup final in Columbus, Ohio. I hadn’t seen an MLS game in person since my dad played in the league (in 2012). That final opened my eyes. I was amazed – not only by the atmosphere at the stadium but by the intensity of the game, the way the players played. I wanted LAFC to win the final, of course, but when they fell short I accepted it as motivation. Now that I’m part of the club I’m determined to do my part to get us to another final, and win it.

Tomas Angel sig
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