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SBI MLS Spotlight: Agudelo carrying more responsibility as one of Chivas USA’s few holdovers

Juan Agudelo

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Of the few players to survive Chivas USA’s offseason overhaul, Juan Agudelo may be the one with the biggest burden on his shoulders.

It might be hard to believe but this season marks Agudelo’s fourth as a professional and with that comes increased expectations. No longer simply a youngster learning MLS, the 20-year-old must now bear responsibility in helping carry a Chivas USA offense that has been decimated and refurbished by mercurial new head coach Jose ‘Chelis’ Sanchez.

“He’s already an international player, but to further his career he needs to win minutes and play good minutes,” Sanchez told SBI. “He’s the player I have least had the chance to interact with because he arrived late (to preseason camp) because of being with his national team and he’s had less of a chance to be with us and train with us.”

That still did not stop Sanchez from relying on Agudelo in the Goats’ season-opening loss to the Columbus Crew, nor did the fact that Agudelo is currently fighting a foot injury sustained in the U.S. Men’s National Team’s friendly with Canada in January (“I’ve been kind of working through that but before Canada, I felt awesome,” Agudelo told SBI.” In the national team camp, it’s probably the best I’ve felt in a while”).

Agudelo came off the bench at halftime to help inject some life into a lifeless Chivas USA attack, and inject he did. Agudelo was at the center of two good goal-scoring opportunities but failed to capitalize on either of them.

Still, it is expected that Agudelo will only get better the more time he has to learn his new teammates’ tendencies. After all, he just lost a majority of the players who he had been playing with since joining Chivas USA last May.

“You never want to see a friend that you’ve been with cool with for about a year go, but it’s part of the profession,” Agudelo told SBI. “Since my first year (and) second year, I’ve seen guys come and go. I still stay in contact with them, but we have good players coming in and (I have) to just get along with it.

“What you have to do is build chemistry with the players and I feel I’m getting along with them really well.”

Naturally, Agudelo has set scoring goals and having assists as some of his goals for 2013 but that is not all that Sanchez wants to see from him. Sanchez, who Agudelo recently described to SBI as ‘good crazy’, is asking the talented youngster to chase and harass opposing defenders when they have the ball in an effort to¬†create more goal-scoring opportunities for the team.

“He just wants me to work up top and defend and try to win balls in the attacking half, so that we’re closer to score a goal,” said Agudelo. “He thinks we’ll get a lot of chances by our forwards working hard and pressuring.”

While enjoying success at the club level is something Agudelo wants in 2013, he is also hoping that good performances with the Goats translates into more call-ups by U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. With 17 caps to his name, Agudelo is on the cusp of breaking into the U.S. team and it is likely he will have a golden chance to stake his claim for a permanent role in this summer’s Gold Cup.

Agudelo, however, does not want to get too far ahead of himself.

“It’s definitely in the back of my head every time I play, but I just try to do what I can do with my club and everything with the national team will fall in to place if it’s meant to be,” said Agudelo, who has 17 caps to his name. “But I feel like whatever I do on the field (with Chivas USA) is going to be what will help me make the team.”

Agudelo may not want to look too far into the future, but he does have a big decision looming at the end of the year. Agudelo is currently in the final year of his contract with MLS and will have to decide at season’s end if he wants to stick around a growing league or follow in the footsteps of players like Brek Shea and move abroad.

While all indications point to Agudelo opting for the latter – he has trained in Europe with clubs like Liverpool, Celtic and VfB Stuttgart the past two offseasons and enjoyed it – he is taking a wait-and-see approach regarding his future.

“My motto is just doing what I can do on the field and everything will fall into place,” said Agudelo before continuing, “but I’ve always wanted to play in Europe.”

Due to his age and contract situation, Agudelo will undoubtedly receive European interest throughout the year. MLS and Chivas USA may opt to sell him in the summer to avoid letting him go for free in the winter, but what will drive more teams to want to cough up the necessary dough that it would take to sell him early would be a strong first half of the season.

You see for all of Agudelo’s milestones, he still only has nine goals to his name at the club level, certainly not an impressive number with all thing considered.

That is why performing consistently for the Goats in 2013 is critical for Agudelo, as doing so would be a telling sign that he is ready for a bigger challenge, whether in MLS or Europe.


  1. I like Agudelo. He’s young and hasn’t had a good club situation to improve his game. NY was tough, Henry really didn’t want anything to do with him. Chivas last season was a disaster. We’ll see what Chelis can do with him. In a perfect world Chivas would trade him to Houston where Dom would set him on the right path and get the best out of him. I think the SPL is a bit of a stretch right now. He needs to stay healthy and work on being a consistent impact player in MLS. There’s a casualness in his approach to finishing. He puts himself in a lot of great positions to score but doesn’t have any numbers…

  2. Agudelo should totally rent and not buy because inevitably hispanic Chivas is going to spiral into Mexican Chivas and Colombians will go from “in” to “out.” If he stays in MLS long enough he can then come back when they could bored with losing and revert to open-minded Chivas.

    BTW, HDC is about to become The StubHub. A stadium named for a ticket site. A stadium named for a ticket site. I think my brain just cracked.

  3. What does it say that Chelis started Tristan Bowen over Agudelo? I certainly don’t think it says Tristan Bowen is better than Agudelo… nor did he look better than him in their first game…

  4. I don’t see it with Agudelo this year. Chelis may teach him attacking soccer but the team surrounding him is bad as well as the overall vibe (continual losing will not attract fans). He’s got promise but he should be on a good team to fulfill that promise. Chivas are going to be forced to change (sell / rebrand etc) by Garber after this season.

    • Not so fast.

      Garber is on record of saying he supports Chivas’ direction and likes the idea they’re “adding something different” to MLS.

      I won’t even begin to debate how absurd that statement is, just passing along why I wouldn’t bet on Garber stepping in.

      • Garber probably is not about to trash talk one of “his” teams in public. What he is saying behind closed doors might be a lot more interesting.

  5. How about Agudelo fills in for Jozy at AZ this summer after he is sold? I like this cycle: buy American forward for relatively cheap, develop player into top scorer, sell player to larger league/team for 5 times the purchase price. The American attackers pipeline. I think AZ would be on board. Who is after Agudelo though?

    • Senior squad: Jozy

      u-23: Agudelo

      u-20: Villarreal

      I guess that’s who’s up next if this pipeline/pipe dream ever came true.

    • AZ didn’t “buy” Jozy, he arrived on a free transfer. When somebody asked JA about younger players going to the Netherlands, he said, that while he thought it benefit their development, only Ajax or PSV had the means, but that other clubs couldn’t afford the fees asked by the MLS for what they view as raw/unfinished players.

    • …and at 23, Jozy was lighting the Eredivisie on fire, in Europe.

      Does that logic suddenly make Jozy a better player than Dempsey? I don’t think it does. Those comparisons are ridiculous and prove nothing.

  6. Love how so much expectation is on him at such a young age, aka Freddy Adu 2.0 over-the-top expectation….Something about us American fans…We see a glimpse of talent, and we automatically expect crazy, staggering numbers for them to produce….Now I do see that this is his chance to produce so he can make that next step, but remember, Backe liked to use veteran players, and he’s having to assimilate into another new system with Chivas, while coming back from injury. Give the kid some time. HE’S ONLY 20!!!!!!!….He’s still developing his game….Saying he’s no good is jumping to conclusion without proper assessment.

    • This is why MLS needs to continue going forward with their relationship with the USL concerning reserve teams and, I would hope, possibly loaning more younger, talented players to lower division teams. American players turning pro need to feel comfortable with the development system of MLS, so that it becomes a better option in that regard than Europe or Mexico.

  7. Earnie Stewart should get AZ to replace Jozy with Agudelo when they sell in the summer. Wouldn’t mind seeing a couple Americans there after seeing Jozy’s success.

    On another note, it kind of baffles me that Agudelo has had such little production in MLS. He is a talented kid but his numbers have to improve. 9 goals is pretty meh

    • while they have different strengths, Agudelo would make a fine replacement for Jozy at AZ. I could see him thriving in the similar left forward role in the dutch league.

  8. I know he wasn’t playing that much at Red Bulls,but does anyone else feel like a golden opportunity to learn from one of the best strikers ever in Henry was kind of squandered?

    • Squandered is a little strong.

      If Juan was open to learning from Henry, well, he spent a year or two with him, which adds up to a lot of time with him in training along with a couple of games. .

      Besides they pay Henry to play not to coach. It’s not NYRB’s job to develop players for the USMNT.

    • I see nothing in his current form to believe he would be playing at Celtic. Celtic don’t feel like paying a reasonable fee for him so it seems they agree with that assessment.

      • Europe doesn’t tend to dwell on current form. Shea and Adu moved over during low points. They see his ability and will gauge his ceiling. It doesn’t hurt that he will be cheap as well.

  9. Two comments:

    1. I hope Agudelo avoids a horizontal (or less) move to the SPL.

    2. I can’t wait to see Chivas crash and burn this year.

      • Which would serve his development better, playing in a one team league where the average quality of opponents is below that of the MLS, or staying in MLS?

      • As long as the SPL is a one-team league, Celtic will continue to earn a Champions League berth. So I get what you’re saying, but Agudelo could be playing Champs League football, which is obviously higher quality than MLS.

      • If you think Juan would actually get playing time in a CL fixture when he can’t even start for a terrible Chivas side… well… never mind.

      • It’s all hypothetical anyway. Celtic isn’t knocking at Chivas’ door. My point is IF Agudelo went to Celtic, he would not necessarily be playing lower competition than he’s playing in MLS. That’s all.

      • This view always bothers me. So he should rot away in a terrible league to play 6 champions league games? No way is the brutality of SPL going to benefit a finess striker like Agudelo. He needs to go to Portugal or the Netherlands and learn how to take his technique up a level.

      • in deed.. every league gets a shot at the UCL every year. Celtic will be there next year but so will Molde and Helsingborg as well as the top team from Finland and Estonia.. my point is exactly yours a few (or handful) champions league games are good but 30 or so quality league games would be much better.

  10. its time for agudelo to deliver. obviously hans backe stunted his growth or knows something we dont. this is a perfect opportunity for him

    • Or maybe he wasn’t ready or not good enough. What happened last year did Chivas USA stunt his growth, he only scored 3 goals?

      • Expectations were pretty unrealistic with this kid way too early, but he obviously has the tools to be a nice player. He probably could have been in better places for his development, but you best make the best of the hand your dealt. Don’t get the impression Henry is the type to take anyone under his wing, but certainly doesn’t hurt to see a player of his caliber day in and day out.

        Stunted growth??? Chivas seems to constantly stunt Chivas’ growth, so it stands to reason the same applies to all of it’s players. Team was completely inept on the offensive side last year… not quite sure what Agudelo could have done to change that. If they have any ambition whatsoever when in possession, which I’m pretty sure they do, it should be a better year for him.

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