Back in May, MLS was abuzz with the news of Chivas USA acquiring Juan Agudelo in exchange for defender Heath Pearce. So far the trade hasn't been the steal that many Goats fans had hoped it would be. Both players have scored two goals in their new clubs. However, while Pearce has started 16 games and steadied a shaky back line en route to an All-Star spot, Agudelo's presence hasn't sparked the Goats' goal tally.
You can't really fault Agudelo for his low tally, though. Playing on the right flank in a 4-2-3-1, his opportunities to break inside are limited. Agudelo puts some effort in his defense and will, on occasion, break up opponent passes and even win some balls at the flanks.
Agudelo's crossing numbers (0/16 through September according to Opta) suggest a player struggling to adapt to a position. When you consider that the most important skill required of a winger is crossing, it's hard not to feel that Robin Fraser is doing both Agudelo and the team a disservice by placing him on the wing, instead of the position he played when he arrived, central striker.
With the playoffs out of reach, Chivas USA has two games to evaluate the current squad before the presumed offseason cleaning. While this should signal youth before age (after all we have a pretty good understanding of what Juan Pablo Angel, Alejandro Moreno, Peter Vagenas, and Ante Jazic bring to the table), it's also about seeing what players can do in different positions. This likely explains why we saw Shalrie Joseph lined up as center back and Juan Agudelo used up front in a 4-4-2 in Sunday's match against FC Dallas.
It's hard to say the 4-4-2 doesn't suit Agudelo. It's the formation he used for most of his pre-Chivas career. And, in fact, Agudelo scored both of his Chivas goals when lined up as a striker in a 4-4-2.
In one such instance, on August 25th, Agudelo paired with Casey Townsend combined for 6 shots, 4 of which were on target. That's an improvement from the paltry 3.5 shots on goal Chivas, as a team, averaged through the 2012 season (including U.S. Open Cup matches).
Agudelo could very well succeed in playing the single striker in a 4-2-3-1. The requirements of the solitary forward in the formation is to have either strength or pace, some height (being able out-leap opposing defenders to put your head on the ball) and the ability to hold the ball up. Agudelo has those qualities.
Springing Agudelo from the wing and playing him in the center of the field would be the appropriate step for a club that is in such dire need of scoring. If done correctly, Agudelo will be joining Pearce in next year's All-Star game.
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