Juan Sebastian Agudelo is ready to give Europe another try. But first, he has something to prove in what could be his last year with the Revolution.
“I could’ve chosen to go to Europe, but I didn’t like the way my season went last year,” Agudelo said before the Revolution departed for preseason training in Marbella, Spain. “So, I thought there was a better way to leave here.”
Agudelo scored 7, 7, 7, and 8 goals in his first four seasons with the Revolution, then slumped to 3 last season, partly because of injuries, plus a switch to a wing position.
“We’re a very good team this year,” Agudelo said. “But other teams reupped as much as we did. There’s other teams that have become better. The whole league in general is advancing really fast.
“I can’t predict the future, but I do believe we have a good team, and any team that is at least OK has a chance to win the Cup, with the playoff format the way it is. I think we have a chance.”
Agudelo has struggled to fulfill the promise he displayed early in his career. He scored in his US national team debut as a 17-year-old in 2010 and, the next year, he converted 6 goals in 27 matches with the New York Red Bulls. But Agudelo’s career stalled with the Red Bulls and he was shipped to Chivas USA, then joined the Revolution in 2013.
In 2014, he moved to Stoke City in England’s Premier League, but never played for the club after failing to obtain a work permit because of a lack of national team appearances. Stoke City then loaned Agudelo to FC Utrecht in the Netherlands before he returned to the Revolution in 2015.
“One hundred percent,” Agudelo said of his European intentions. “I just turned 26 and I’ve seen guys go to Europe way later than me. Yes, it’s definitely in my plans.”
Agudelo has a unique combination of skill and strength on the ball that would help him succeed in any first-division league.
“Juan is a very versatile player,” Revolution coach Brad Friedel said. “It was a bit of a shame, really, but he got injured [hamstring] early in the preseason and missed a vast majority of the preseason.
“Once the season got underway, he was in a battle with Teal [Bunbury], and for the first half of the season, Teal scored quite a few goals. It was not just the hamstring; he had ankle troubles during the season.
“We deployed him as a winger, but now he is in another battle for playing time as a No. 9 or as a double striker. He has a lot of other attributes, and his work rate is exceptional. He’s good at taking people on, and that allows him to play quite a few different positions.
“He’s very quick and powerful. He doesn’t have an issue getting the ball with people around him. It’s not easy to have that quality, to take the ball down out of the air with two or three guys around you. He can take it down, and he has strength and explosiveness.”
Agudelo’s failure to post high goal-scoring totals has been blamed on a lack of motivation. But his calm demeanor can be deceptive.
His composure results from confidence, plus the calming influence of his mother, who named him after Johann Sebastian Bach, often playing recordings of the German composer’s work to soothe her infant son, who was born in Manizales, Colombia.
“I would say that’s not fair,” Friedel said of labeling Agudelo unmotivated. “We saw Juan, every time he was out of the team, he had a very good drive and determination to work hard on the training ground to get back. He stayed after for many hours working to improve his game. We saw a kid trying to be good as he could be.”
Agudelo, Bunbury, Colombian Juan Fernando Caicedo, and Brian Wright are competing for the starting striker role.
Friedel hopes the Revolution’s improved attacking will lead to better defending this season.
“We were among the top 5-6 in a lot of offensive categories, with the exception of scoring goals,” Friedel said. “So we want to add some goals to the team. I think by adding goals, and just having added composure on the ball, will relieve a lot of the stress put on our back four and goalkeeper. So that will go a long way in conceding fewer.”
Interest, but no action
Club Nacional has not made a formal offer to acquire Revolution midfielder Diego Fagundez on loan, according to a team source.
Former Los Angeles Galaxy defender Eduardo Dominguez, the Uruguayan club’s coach, has indicated interest in Fagundez. And Nacional has contacted the Revolution via a letter inquiring about his status, but it does not seem willing to come up with a transfer fee, making any deal unlikely.
Fagundez, who turns 24 next month, has two years remaining on his MLS contract. Last season, he played 33 games (tied with Cristian Penilla for the team lead) and scored 9 goals, third on the team. He is third on the all-time Revolution scoring list with 50 goals and fifth in appearances with 217.
Atlanta United’s Josef Martinez was named MLS Most Valuable Player after producing a record 31 goals last season. But Martinez’s teammate, Miguel Almiron, is considered the league’s most valuable performer ($17.1 million) by transfermarkt.com. Atlanta president Darren Eales said he is willing to transfer Almiron for $30 million, an asking price that appears high. Almiron has proven to be a bargain, having been acquired on an $8.6 million transfer from Lanus and earning $2.3 million annually. Atlanta could be showing the way forward for MLS by delving into the player transfer market. The strategy has paid off so far, as Atlanta United won the MLS Cup in their second season, spending about $35 million on transfers. Should Atlanta get its price for Almiron, the transfer fee would be triple the record for an MLS performer, set by the Vancouver Whitecaps’ Alphonso Davies, who went to Bayern Munich last year.