Juan Agudelo entered 2013 as Chivas USA's main offensive weapon, a player who it was well known wanted to leave MLS for Europe, and so it looked like it could be a mutually beneficial arrangement for team and player alike.
He started off well, scoring two goals and providing an assist while playing in each of the first six games. Though it appeared Chelís wasn't particularly interested in Agudelo's skills early in training camp, with the striker missing time due to U.S. Men's National Team commitments, his skills and effort evidently won the coach over, and he was a regular early in the season. It is perhaps not a total coincidence that Chivas were 3-2-1 during the games Agudelo played for the team in 2013.
Then, of course, Agudelo was shipped out to the New England Revolution for some magic beans early in May. Though he was injured at the time, and his track record the past couple of seasons indicates that he might be injury-prone, it was still a shocking move, because he was good and because Chivas didn't even get a player in return for him.
Of course, Agudelo himself said in an interview that he was traded because Chivas had "money troubles," which pretty much put a bow on the team's prospects in 2013 right there. Although they did shell out a bit for Carlos Bocanegra in the summer, and although Agudelo's expiring contract meant Chivas had some legitimate motivation to get something for him before he signed to a European team, it still screwed the team on the field, as Chivas had no real scoring option until Erick Torres joined the team in July. Between April and Torres' arrival, Chivas' attack was on life support.
Here are Agudelo's statistics with Chivas USA in 2013:
|Games Played||Games Started||Minutes||Goals||Assists||Shots||SOG||Yellow Cards||Red Cards|
|MLS Regular Season||6||4||381||2||1||7||2||2||0|
|U.S. Open Cup||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0||0|
So how did Agudelo do with the Revs? Well, he was injured for a couple long stretches, but he scored seven goals and an assist in 14 games. In the games he played, New England was 8-2-3, and he arguably put the team over the top offensively when he was on the field. They ended up making the playoffs, too.
It has to be said, the trade of Agudelo has to be one of the biggest blunders by Chivas in 2013, and that's saying something. I realize his contract and injury history meant Chivas were trying to take a calculated risk, but the trade seemed dumb at the time and remains dumb now. And the uncertainty over his future makes the move seem even worse, though Chivas could not have anticipated that at the time.
Agudelo had a pre-contract agreement with English Premier League side Stoke City earlier this year, and Stoke actually tried to buy him in the summer transfer window, before New England said no, saying they'd rather have him around for the playoff push rather than make a few bucks for him.
So Agudelo is out of contract, but his visa application was rejected by the English government, and he has not signed with Stoke after all. Though they could still give him a contract and loan him out, that appears unlikely, and it's put Agudelo's immediate future in doubt. He could sign with another European club, in a different country that will give him a work permit. He could also re-sign with MLS, and almost certainly remain with the Revs. That's right, New England holds his MLS rights at the moment, so they could get him again next year. Obviously, few could have predicted that turn of events, and Agudelo's ambition clearly has him looking at still going to Europe, but it is still quite possible he could stay in MLS.
Imagine if Agudelo and Torres were on the same Chivas USA team. It could have really been something, couldn't it? And both youngsters play different roles as strikers, meaning they could have created a very successful partnership. But alas, Agudelo finally got a chance to play his proper position with Chivas in 2013, and just as things were going well, he was gone, and that was a shame.
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