BY DAVE MARTINEZ
When the time came to pull a trigger on a trade sending away Juan Agudelo, the ultimate push to make a trade happen came from none other than Agudelo himself.
That is the contention of team General Manager Erik Soler as he discussed the details of the young striker’s trade to Chivas USA for defender Heath Pearce, allocation money and future considerations.
“First and foremost, I think it’s important to state that the initiative for this trade was not in our hands,” Soler told reporters. “We had conversations with Juan for a long period of time about his future and development. “
Soler cited Agudelo’s health and long term prospects with the team as a reason for his steady paced developmental but was also quick to point out that the young striker had started the first game of the season against FC Dallas after barely participating in the team’s preseason due to injury issues.
Agudelo's frustration with a lack of playing time dated back to last season, with U.S. national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann recently revealing that Agudelo had raised concerns about his status with the Red Bulls.
There have been rumblings for a long time about Hans Backe not rating Agudelo highly, and the team's decision to trade for Kenny Cooper in the off-season seemed to suggest the team wasn't ready to make Agudelo a starter in 2012.
“It had become clear that he thought that his chance to develop as a player would maybe get better chances if he played somewhere else," Soler said. "We still don’t think that’s the case, but sometimes when you work in this sport you have to put on larger glasses.”
“We want to support Juan but he wants to try something new and we’ll give him that opportunity,” Soler continued. “We had numerous people calling us from the league about Juan, and we had turned everybody down for a long time. But in the end, when it became clear that he really wanted to try something else, and Hans and I discussed it, we don’t want to be anywhere close to giving him less opportunity than what he wants himself.”
Among the teams that had previously shown interest in Agudelo was Chivas USA, who ultimately became his final suitor.
When the right opportunity arose to pull the trigger, the Red Bulls General Manager pointed to the recent form of Kenny Cooper for helping facilitate the move. “We have a pair of strikers that are working fantastic at the moment,” he said. “To be a backup player is not good enough for Juan and we understand that. He would have been a starter in the games coming up after (the season opener against FC Dallas), but then he left for the National Team, came back with an injury and in that time, Kenny Cooper did what he did. He turned out a great player for us.”
In Heath Pearce, Soler hopes to address many of the team’s pressing issues. With Teemu Tainio out of the lineup for the next two months or more, and the state of Wilman Conde’s health up in the air, Pearce may be looked at to fill one of many positions on the pitch.
“We have a situation with Wilman Conde where he’s been out injured for a long time. We don’t want to push him, so he (Pearce) can play as a left central defender,” he said. “Roy Miller has an issue with his knee, so he can play (at left back). And of course young Connor Lade had done fantastic. And he’s a left fullback that can also go further up the field, so it gives us another option. Heath Pearce can play right fullback, he can do that well. We think he can certainly play central midfield as a defensive holding guy if we want to put Rafa Marquez somewhere else, or play Dax McCarty higher up the pitch. Defensively I think already we will see how Hans chooses to play Heath Pearce. We will see very quickly that he will help us in that part of our game.”
As for Agudelo, Soler took a realistic approach in analyzing his future with the team had the trade not been made. “I am convinced that Juan at one time will go to Europe, and of course we are ultimately in a position to financially have a gain if that should happen. But I think that should be in a few years time from now, but I really hope he does get the chance to go to the right club.
“The only thing I can say is, I really hope in his career he scores 250 goals for Chivas. They only meet us once a year if they don’t come through to the final. I hope he doesn’t score too many against us anyway, but that’s all you can do. He’s a young, lovely kid that I really like, and I really wish all the best for him, and I’m sure he’ll do fine. “