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After several disappointing years, Agudelo looking to finally seize USMNT chance

Photo by Christopher Hanewinckel/USA Today Sport

Juan Agudelo knows its on him. At 17 years old, he was heralded as the future of the U.S. Men’s National Team, a potential star in the making. In the years since, the forward’s international career has been inconsistent at best as he’s largely existed outside of the USMNT picture.

Just 24 years old, there’s still plenty of time for Juan Agudelo to piece his USMNT career together, and he isn’t ready for you to give up on him just yet.

The New England Revolution forward is finally starting to find his feet after several up and down years at the club level. Through just 15 games and 11 starts, Agudelo has fired seven goals for the Revs this season, matching his goalscoring total from each of the last two seasons at the MLS halfway point.

It’s been a winding road for Agudelo, whose club situations have regularly hampered his international career. However, he’s now comfortable and in a starting role, making him a prime candidate to use the upcoming Gold Cup to show that he can still be that player that was once expected to become a future USMNT regular.

“There were some inconsistent call-ups,” Agudelo said, reflecting on his international career thus far. “I wouldn’t say it’s frustration. It’s just disappointment at times in myself and not anybody else. I believe I’ve belonged in the call-ups, but sometimes I don’t show myself on the club level. That’s the only thing I’ve been disappointed with: myself.”

Agudelo’s stock skyrocketed in Cape Town back in 2010 when he marked his USMNT debut with a debut goal against South Africa. He was just 17 years old. In the year that followed, Agudelo made 14 USMNT appearances, memorably scoring an equalizing goal against Argentina.

The years since, though, brought the disappointment Agudelo referred to. In the six years since his 2011 breakthrough, Agudelo has made just eight USMNT appearances as he bounced around on the club level. His Stoke City move, which could have served as a major European breakthrough, instead turned into a fiasco. A move to the Revs followed and, after several seasons in and out of the starting lineup, Agudelo’s stock is just now beginning to recover as he finds his footing.

So far this season, the goals have been there. He scored six times in a seven-game stretch through March and April. An injury limited him in the weeks that followed before a recent goal off the bench in a 3-0 trouncing of Toronto FC.

While club situations have plagued Agudelo for several years, the forward has seen others around him continue their own rise. The forward initially came into the team alongside the likes of Mix Diskerud, Alejandro Bedoya and Omar Gonzalez, and all three went on to represent the USMNT at the 2014 World Cup.

“There are a lot of guys here who I started with at January camp when I was younger,” Agudelo said. “To see them grow and play in such big tournaments or in a World Cup, it’s special. Luckily, I have a relationship from before where I can speak with them and learn from them because they’ve played in huge games.”

Now, Agudelo finds himself somewhere between youngster and veteran. He’s played in a Gold Cup before, making him one of 11 players on the roster to have experience in the tournament. Agudelo was a part of the 2011 squad that infamously fell to Mexico, 4-2, in the tournament’s final match. He was used as a substitute that day at the Rose Bowl, and he said he remembers how “unlucky” he and the USMNT felt to lose on such a big stage.

Now, Agudelo will look to provide guidance for several new faces, including club teammate Kelyn Rowe, who joins the senior team for the first time.

“Juan was sniffing; he’s been right there since January,” Revs head coach Jay Heaps said of Agudelo. “I’m excited that he’s going to get a real chance in a tournament format. And for Kelyn, it’s long overdue. He’s someone who puts in the work and puts in the time.”

“It’s going to be nice to have someone you play with every day, day in and day out,” Rowe added. “You know his tendencies. Juan and I can link up and we’ve done so in the years we’ve been here. Hopefully we can find that with the U.S. team.”

Agudelo will certainly be hoping to bring his Revs form to the USMNT. He’s one of just three forwards listed on the roster, although Gyasi Zardes can certainly play up top. Of the three, he has the most caps, and the unique combination of his physical gifts and play-making ability could be very helpful to the USMNT in the Gold Cup’s early matches.

He just needs to seize that chance. With a World Cup on the horizon, it’s all Agudelo wants and, in several ways, it’s in reach this summer despite several all of the disappointments that have come in the past several years.

“It’s definitely a great opportunity for all of us,” Agudelo said. “There are a couple of guys coming in. It’s strange to think I’ve been here a couple of times. It’s an opportunity that you have to take. You don’t know when you’ll have another chance like this in a major tournament before a World Cup. For me, as a kid, I always wanted to play in a World Cup.”


  1. Just for fun list your 23.
    GK: Howard, Guzan, Horvath
    Def: Yedlin, Cameron, Brooks, Villafana, Miazga, Omar, Ream, and lichaj
    Mid: Bradley, CP, Johnson, Nagbe, Arriola, Hyndman, Mckinnie and Acosta
    Strikers: Wood, Altidore, Dempsey and Wright
    3 of the players I chose are just wild cards based on breaking through to significant first team mins this upcoming season

    • I’ll hold off doing roster predictions until after the Gold Cup. There are just too many unknowns at this point.

  2. If your name has an “A” or “J” in it … I’m with you.

    Aaron Johansen
    Juan Agudelo
    Jozmer Altidore … And one Bobby Wood. At one point I thought that was the Forward pool for the Yanks in Russia. Precisely 1/3 of A-or-J’s will be there, but I hope I’m wrong.

  3. Absent injury, there are 8 spots open. But I wouldn’t say that they are all bench spots. Also, the world cup is a place for young kids, so I think you have to bring the new ginger and CCV so there are actually only 6 spots open. But someone plays themselves into a club team and has a great season, they could beat out nagbe/acosta/arriola and start… I mean look at Pulisic… and there are a bunch of players right on the fringe all over europe. So this will be an interesting 12 months.

    • There is no way CCV is headed to next summer’s WC, CB is our deepest position group. Who is the “new ginger”?? Is that a reference to Sargent?? Anyways, i think the midfield and backline are pretty set unless as people have stated injuries occur. I see Bedoya being left behind for the likes of Arriola and maybe another sleeper pick. The forward group is also seemingly set with that fourth spot still up in the air. If Agudelo shows well in the GC and continues his form next year as well he could be on his way to Russia

  4. I keep reading articles about players trying to make a case for Russia, but how many spots are actually available out of the 23? With Howard and Guzman locked in that leaves 1 GK, Yedlin, Brooks, Cameron, Vilifana and probably Omar which probably leaves 3 defenders and CP, Bradley, Johnson, Nagbe, and would think Acosta would leave 3 midfielders and Wood, altidore and Dempsey would leave 1 striker. So 7 out field players and u have to like the chances of Arriola so that leaves 6. Any thoughts out there

    • I wouldn’t say Villafana, Dempsey, Gonzalez, or Acosta are written in pen, yet. But otherwise I think you have it just about right.

    • 3 thoughts

      1. Form and injuries will have an impact on the next 12 months.
      2. After those mentioned the field is pretty open with a handful of guys pushing for spots
      3. As a soccer fan you have to enjoy the competition.

      I would love to see Agudelo show well. He’s been around long enough to be a bit of a redemption story but is still young enough to have a future.

    • i had a similar count of 2018 WC spots open for competition.. about 7 mostly non starter roles.

      keep in mind at this point in the 2014 cycle we had yet to meet Juilian Green and DeAndre Yedlin..

      at this point in ’13 (vs. GER, vs. BEL, at JAM and vs. PAN) and ’09 (Confed Cup) our starting lineups were nearly identical to our World Cup Starting XI – both had 1 difference – ’10 w/o Davies and ’14 with Yedlin over Evans. But in both cases the majority of the bench was different.

      another piece of useless trivia, ’09 Gold Cup had two (Dolo and Benny) ’10 World Cup players, ’13 GC -> ’14 WC ; 4 (Rimando, Beas, Wondo, Bedoya)

      so what to make of this;
      – 6-7 WC roster spots (not starters) are traditional open at this point in the cycle
      – 1-2 could be uncapped at this point (some hope to CVV or Tyler Adams, or even some like McKinne or Wright?)
      – odds are against anyone trying to make the jump from the B team Gold Cup to the World Cup

    • You forgot J.Jones if healthy. Also probably safe to assume at least one or 2 of those guys will be injured. I also agree not to include Acosta as a given.

    • I would agree that at the moment there are roughly 7 roster spots being openly contended. However, I wouldn’t necessarily say that the other 16 spots are set in stone either. This is the first time in my 30+ years of following the USMNT, that there has been real depth at most positions. This summer’s GC squad should go a long ways towards establishing Bruce’s player depth chart…than it’ll be a question of who is in the best form/health come April/May of next year.
      Not to mention there is always a Shock inclusion or Inclusion to our rosters….who it will be for 2018 is anyone’s guess at this point.

    • Injuries happen to all players and the guys about 30 or so get injured more and take longer to recover. I cannot predict which, but would not be at all surprised if a few of of Howard, Guzan, Bradley, Jones, Dempsey, Cameron, Johnson, Ream and Lichaj miss the 2018 WC due to injury plus a younger player or two that people are high on now.

      You just cannot think that any W.C. roster made up now will not be missing some significant players when it comes time.

  5. It’s now or never kid. Show the “boss man” what you can do!!!!
    Without any top US players that want the ball for themselves to tally up goals or assists, this is going to be a team that will play for each other.
    With Dwyer, Morris and Agudelo with something to prove I’m expecting something spectacular this Gold Cup for some reason

  6. I feel like Agudelo is one of those players that is greatly dependant on good service.

    He’s got a lot of flair inside the box and the rare ability for a USMNT forward of making the first and second player miss, but struggles to find adequate service to inact that ability.


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