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Juan Agudelo’s role for U.S. this summer far from assured

May 4, 2012, 11:06 AM EDT

Mexico midfielder Mier and U.S. forward Agudelo watch the ball during the first half of their U-23 international friendly soccer match in Frisco Reuters

Juan Agudelo’s return to practice and potential ability to supply minutes to the ailing Red Bulls will be a weekend talker.

And with Jozy Altidore’s status in question (Wednesday’s injury doesn’t appear to be serious, but incidents involving the head certainly deserve added precaution), it’s easy to assume that Agudelo’s part in the coming U.S. national team camp is gaining importance.

But is it?

It’s fair to ask whether Agudelo, the young striker whose recent injury occurred while wearing the U.S. under-23 shirt, will even be among Klinsmann’s call-ups when the full national team gathers in Orlando in a couple of weeks.

Earlier this week we posted a revealing Klinsmann Q&A from U.S. Soccer. The piece was all about scouting and the growing, extensive U.S. network’s role in assessing individuals’ form and fitness in the most comprehensive way possible.

Part of that, of course, is determining how previously injured players are progressing in their recovery bids. As Klinsmann points out, there’s a difference between Player X being back on field and Player X regaining previous levels of potency – returning to levels that reaped national team attention in the first place.

Here’s what Klinsmann said, using U.S. center back Oguchi Onyewu, who recently returned from injury at Sporting in Portugal.

Gooch comes back now from injury and just played his first game last week. We need to know now where he’s at. Next week, Andy Herzog is planning to go down to Portugal to see him train, to see him in his normal environment. We need to know that he’s sharp and he’s fit and that he’s already in a rhythm.

There’s a big difference between being healthy and fit. When a player comes back from injury and he’s ready to go and join the team training again, it doesn’t mean that he’s fit. He’s on the way back to fitness, and that usually takes another couple of weeks. You want to wait to bring a player into camp that’s not there yet. He’s healthy, yes, but maybe he’s not fit.

I look now at Danny Williams. He’s got a shoulder injury – not a very serious one – but it’s definitely something we’ll have to consider and talk to their medical staff and talking to the player and the coach and see how long that recovery time takes. If it just takes a week, then you say, ‘Okay, no problem. He gets back into a rhythm next week.’ If it takes longer than that, it might affect our planning for the May-June camp.”

Read those words, and then ask yourself if young Agudelo is on the list that Klinsmann has in pencil today? At the very least, you could say that Agudelo’s role in a U.S. this summer could depend on how he looks this week and next for the Red Bulls.

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