Skip to content

How many things had to come together for somebody like Juan Agudelo to be traded?

May 18, 2012, 5:14 PM EDT

Juan Agudelo of the U.S. battles for the ball with Renay Malblanche of Cuba during their CONCACAF Olympic qualifying soccer match in Nashville Reuters

In other sports, Juan Agudelo would be almost untouchable. His talent-to-cost ratio would be too high to deal, especially in a league with strict spending restrictions. He’d be on this first/rookie deal, not arbitration eligible, would still have options. Whatever metaphor you want to use, it’d be hard to craft a scenario where trading such a talented 20-year-old is justifiable.

And despite a year’s worth of speculation surrounding his status in New York, Agudelo was barely touchable in New York. Backtracking through the year-and-a-half since he burst onto the scene in Cape Town, six facets had to coincide to foster this remarkable (if slightly expected) deal.

Flash potential, but leave them wanting more

Becoming the youngest scorer in national team history is more than a flash, but for most, Agudelo’s Nov. 17, 2010 goal against South Africa was their first exposure to the Colombia-born attacker. It’s hard to put a moment like that on a blank canvas and not see imaginations run wild, especially with Agudelo’s speed, movement and skill fueling that dream.

To this point, that vision has stayed a dream. Agudelo has two goals in 15 national team appearances, and only six in 33 games for the Red Bulls. They’re impressive numbers for a 20-year-old (to put it in perspective, 19-year-old Jack McInerney has four goals in 40 games for Philadelphia), but combined with South Africa, the numbers have left national team fans wanting more.

A national team rise fuels expectations (and value)

Agudelo may not have been scoring goals, but he kept getting called into the national team. Further fueling dreams, he was actually playing. The exposure made it hard to accept his status with New York as something other than an aberration – the product of an equation being influenced by something strange going on with Red Bull. What was that strange thing? Some guessed (and tried to tie those reasons into New York’s historical lack of success), but we really don’t know.

But why New York was the aberration and not the national team? New coach at the beginning of a World Cup cycle trying to see what he has on the shelf – that seems like the more likely scenario to produce some debatable selections.

In the U.S., the national team has always held a lot of sway regarding how players are perceived (see Donovan v. Dempsey, Howard v. Freidel). Agudelo was a comer for the national team. Therefore, he was valuable.

Coach ignores national team hype (while league does not)

Hans Backe wasn’t buying it, though. Agudelo’s club coach just didn’t seem to rate the kid, and if he did, he didn’t rate Agudelo above Thierry Henry, Luke Rodgers, Kenny Cooper (or, going back to when Agudelo debuted in 2010, Juan Pablo Angel, Macoumba Kandji, and Salou Ibrahim). Particularly when the Henry-Rodgers duo was at its best, Backe had no reason to use Agudelo as more than an impact sub. When Backe responded to attackers’ injuries by shifting to 4-5-1 from 4-4-2 (electing to play Mehdi Ballouchy instead of Agudelo), his evaluation was clear.

The broader world of Major League Soccer, on the other hand, has every reason to love Agudelo. He is still only 20. If he was blocked at Red Bull, it doesn’t matter. At least, in the big picture, it doesn’t. MLS has every reason to think time and Agudelo’s talent will see their homegrown, national team star become a key figure for the league.

Explore move abroad that wouldn’t happen

During the winter, Agudelo was linked with moves abroad, with rumors telling of interest from clubs in Germany and England. It made sense, for both club and player. New York cashes in on their homegrown talent while Agudelo gets an opportunity most players can only dream of. Sure, opinion was mixed on Agudelo’s value, but all it takes is one team to buy into the potential for New York to be looking at another Jozy Altidore-esque payday.

It’s unclear what would have been in it for the league, though. Major League Soccer doesn’t have a history of selling early on talent, particularly when the player has a reasonable U.S. national team profile (Altidore being a notable exception). If somebody was going to break the bank for Agudelo, of course there’d be interest. But it’s difficult for a buyer to justify breaking the bank for a player who’s not getting a regular shift.

Become available after teams have laid their 2012 plans

While he headed into an uncertain 2012 – not unknowing how much he would play amid the Luke Rodgers’ saga and the Kenny Cooper acquisition – Agudelo injured his ankle. Then, while with the U.S. U-23 team, he hurt his knee. He was sidelined for a month.

By the time he was back, teams’ rosters had fallen into place, with a slew of attacking talent coming to the league. Seattle (Eddie Johnson), Portland (Kris Boyd), LA (Edson Buddle), Dallas (Blas Pérez), D.C. (Hamdi Salihi), New England (Saer Sene), and Philadelphia (Lionard Pajoy) all added strikers, and while most teams in the league would love to have Agudelo, the reality of Major League Soccer means it’s hard to stockpile talent.

The league’s rules and make it difficult to justify acquiring excessive depth at one position, particularly if you’re asked to give up something in return. Sure, Real Salt Lake (for example) could use Juan Agudelo, but would they want to give up a Chris Schuler to do so?  They’re left to make a title run hoping neither Jamison Olave nor Nat Borchers go down while sitting four or five deep a forward.

Somebody to steps forward

Eventually, the right scenario presented itself. After acquiring Danny Califf from Philadelphia, Chivas USA had some notable defensive talent to spare, something that matched defender-challenged New York’s needs. They also had a problem scoring goals and could offer Agudelo immediate playing time. Willing to throw in a slew of ancillary incentives (allocation money, percentage of potential sale) to Heath Pearce, Chivas USA finally had a package that could make New York move.

All of which was augmented by Erik Soler’s reported belief that Agudelo wanted to move. Faced with that preference, it’s hard to turn down a trade that sends a backup away for a player that immediately slots into your starting XI.

Absent any of these six factors, Juan Agedulo might still be in New York. His trade was the function of expectation, evaluation, depth, rules and timing. It’s the type of confluence you need to see a 20-year-old national teamer dealt mid-season.

Latest Posts
  1. Arsenal goalkeeper Szczesny officially off to Roma on season-long loan

    Jul 29, 2015, 12:43 PM EDT

    Szczesny Getty Images

    After losing his place at The Emirates last year, the 25-year-old will take a crack at proving himself again in Italy.

  2. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Liverpool

    Jul 29, 2015, 11:40 AM EDT

    LiverpoolLogo

    Can Rodgers and the Reds bounce back to finish in the top four and win some silverware this season? His job might depend on it.

  3. Jose Mourinho hits back at Rafael Benitez’s wife; he “destroyed” Inter Milan, needs new diet

    Jul 29, 2015, 10:37 AM EDT

    UEFA Champions League: Liverpool v Chelsea Getty Images

    Mr. Mourinho and Mrs. Benitez are having a verbal battle via the press. This will not end well.

  4. Chelsea issue injury update on Gary Cahill and Diego Costa

    Jul 29, 2015, 9:40 AM EDT

    FBL-USA-ICCUP-CHELSEA-BARCELONA FBL-USA-ICCUP-CHELSEA-BARCELONA

    Mourinho suffers two injuries to key players in Chelsea’s final game of U.S. tour.

  5. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Leicester City

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:50 AM EDT

    Leicester City logo

    Ranieri has a big job on his hands to keep the Foxes out of the relegation zone. Can he succeed at the KP?

  6. Michel Platini announces he will run for FIFA presidency

    Jul 29, 2015, 8:15 AM EDT

    Legendary French midfielder is red-hot favorite to replace Blatter.

  7. Chelsea 2-2 Barcelona: Good-looking goals to spare in Maryland (video)

    Jul 28, 2015, 10:08 PM EDT

    LANDOVER, MD - JULY 28: Luis Suarez #9 of Barcelona battles with Kurt Zouma #5 of Chelsea in the first half during the International Champions Cup North America at FedExField on July 28, 2015 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Close to 80,000 saw Barcelona move to 1-2 in three ICC matches. Barca finishes off its tourney vs. Fiorentina in Florence on Aug. 2.

  8. WATCH: Juking, solo dribble goal by Newcastle’s Haris Vuckic is quite nice

    Jul 28, 2015, 9:16 PM EDT

    NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - JULY 1: Haris Vuckic smiles during the Newcastle United Pre-Season Training session at The Newcastle United Training Centre on July 1, 2015, in Newcastle upon Tyne, England. (Photo by Serena Taylor/Newcastle United via Getty Images) Getty Images

    Thank goodness Haris Vuckic’s brother follows his career over the web.

  9. Cavani to sit two games including World Cup qualifier for post-Jara red card

    Jul 28, 2015, 8:43 PM EDT

    SANTIAGO, CHILE - JUNE 24:  Edinson Cavani of Uruguay (L) argues with Gonzalo Jara of Chile (NOT IN FRAME) during the 2015 Copa America Chile quarter final match between Chile and Uruguay at Nacional Stadium on June 24, 2015 in Santiago, Chile. (Photo by Gabriel Rossi/LatinContent/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Cavani will miss Uruguay’s first CONMEBOL qualifier for the 2018 World Cup in Russia. Bolivia will benefit.

  10. Mob Museum in Vegas to open FIFA exhibit in September

    Jul 28, 2015, 7:16 PM EDT

    ZURICH, SWITZERLAND - JUNE 03: A policeman stands in front of the FIFA headquarters on June 3, 2015 in Zurich, Switzerland. Joseph S. Blatter resigned as president of FIFA. The 79-year-old Swiss official, FIFA president for 17 years said a special congress would be called to elect a successor. (Photo by Philipp Schmidli/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Something tell us the exhibit won’t bring in the same sort of interest as the actual wall from the St. Valentine’s Day Massacre, but it does fit the bill of organized crime.

  11. MLS All Star Game preview: Forecasting the day when the idea is clearly ridiculous

    Jul 28, 2015, 6:11 PM EDT

    COMMERCE CITY, CO - JULY 28:  (L-R) MLS All-Star Graham Zusi of the Sporting Kansas City, Waylon Francis of the Columbus Crew and DaMarcus Beasley of the Houston Dynamo work out during training ahead of the MLS All-Star Game against the Tottenham Hotspur at Dick's Sporting Goods Park on July 28, 2015 in Commerce City, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Edmonds/Getty Images) *** Local Caption *** Graham Zusi; Waylon Francis; DaMarcus Beasley Getty Images

    Here’s hoping MLS makes the idea of this contest laughable in the next decade, if not sooner. Like tomorrow.

  12. Mexico post-Herrera: Few answers, many questions as El Tri moves forward

    Jul 28, 2015, 5:39 PM EDT

    The president of the Mexican Football Federation Decio de Maria Serrano  announces the dismissal of Mexico's national football team coach Miguel Herrera during a press conference on July 28, 2015 in Mexico City.  Mexico's coach Miguel Herrera was sacked on Tuesday following allegations of an assault against a television journalist, just two days after guiding them to their seventh Gold Cup trophy in the United States.  AFP PHOTO/ Yuri CORTEZ        (Photo credit should read YURI CORTEZ/AFP/Getty Images) Getty Images

    Who takes over the ship, one in which the majority of the hands reportedly liked playing for Herrera?

  13. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Everton

    Jul 28, 2015, 4:27 PM EDT

    Everton badge

    Will they hold onto Stones and Coleman? If so, expect Everton to be in the Europa League discussion and to make a healthy bid for both Cups.

  14. Official: Miguel Herrera fired by Mexico days after Gold Cup win, alleged attack on journalist

    Jul 28, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    150728-Herrera Getty Images

    The nation has now changed men’s national team managers 15 times since 2000, and only two of those changes were caretaker moves.

  15. Done deals: Vidal to Bayern Munich, Luis leaves Chelsea for Atletico Madrid, Crespo to Aston Villa

    Jul 28, 2015, 1:59 PM EDT

    Here’s a look at some of the top deals from another busy day across Europe.

  16. Premier League 2015-16 season preview: Crystal Palace

    Jul 28, 2015, 12:35 PM EDT

    CrystalPalaceLogo

    Can the Eagles surprise everyone again? With Cabaye running the show, don’t rule it out.

  17. Jose Mourinho ranks Chelsea’s Eden Hazard above Cristiano Ronaldo

    Jul 28, 2015, 10:30 AM EDT

    Eden Hazard AP

    Mourinho: “In my opinion he should be in the top three.”

Featured video

Analyzing PL clubs in the transfer window