Juan Agudelo has been clamoring for more playing time and a better chance to shine for as long as he has been on the New York Red Bulls bench. He has yearned to have his name in lights, to be a team leader and the player who carries a franchise.
Agudelo will get his chance to have all of that, only it won’t be with the Red Bulls.
New York traded away Agudelo to Chivas USA for U.S. national team defender Heath Pearce and a significant amount of allocation money, sources told Fox Soccer on Thursday.
The blockbuster trade sends the 19-year-old Agudelo to a struggling Chivas USA side where he should be plugged into the starting lineup by a team in dire need of goal production.
The Red Bulls part ways with a young forward who sources say was never a favorite of Hans Backe. The emergence of Kenny Cooper as a top scoring threat and ideal forward partner for Thierry Henry made Agudelo expendable, and when New York found a club willing to pay handsomely, they shipped away a player who has long been considered a future star.
The trade will rattle Red Bulls fans, who grew to adore the gifted young forward, but from a purely strategic standpoint this deal is a major triumph for New York. Essentially, they traded away a back-up forward and added arguably the best left back in MLS. Pearce provides a significant upgrade at left back, along with the versatility to play centerback if needed.
The Red Bulls also covered themselves in the event that Agudelo fulfills expectations and blossoms into a star — and U.S. national team regular — by securing a portion of any future Agudelo transfer fee.
The trade was a clear change in philosophy for the club, which had rejected multiple trade offers for Agudelo from various MLS clubs earlier in the year. Sources believed the Red Bulls were gun-shy about sending Agudelo to another MLS team for fear of a repeat of last year’s disastrous trade that sent eventual MLS MVP Dwayne DeRosario to D.C. United for Dax McCarty.
In fact, the Red Bulls were more interested in trying to sell Agudelo over the winter, but were prevented from doing so by Major League Soccer. Sources tell Fox Soccer MLS wasn’t interested in seeing Agudelo sold for anything short of an eight-figure transfer.
With this trade, the Red Bulls have boosted their defense and filled up their coffers with allocation money they can use to bolster their roster in the summer transfer window. General manager Erik Soler told Fox Soccer on Wednesday that the team was interested in signing a young international attacking player to fill the team’s third Designated Player slot.
Chivas paid a steep price for Agudelo, but they won’t be complaining about their end of the deal. They secured a young, marketable Spanish-speaking future star who can cater to the team’s Latino fans and American fans. On the field, Agudelo is a dynamic forward who could thrive playing alongside former teammate Juan Pablo Angel, who was his mentor when both were with the Red Bulls three years ago.
The trade should help Agudelo’s national team chances because regular playing time for Agudelo has been a concern of U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann since he became national team manager last summer. Not only will Agudelo be with a team where he should play more regularly, but he will also be playing at Home Depot Center, a stone’s throw from Klinsmann’s Orange County home.
The move from New York media market to the Los Angeles media market should help Agudelo continue to capitalize on his increasing profile as a rising star, which has remained high despite lack of playing time with the Red Bulls.
The pressure will be on Agudelo now. There will be no excuses about not getting a chance. Instead of Hans Backe — who really never rated Agudelo high — he will be coached by Robin Fraser, who just traded away his best player in Pearce and a large chunk of money to get him.
Instead of being overshadowed by the likes of Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez, Agudelo will be the poster boy of his own team for the first time in his career. He will be expected to score goals and be the team’s go-to player. It is the role Agudelo must have dreamed of when he turned pro three years ago. Only now, he will be playing the role on the other side of the country.
He isn’t just the future of Chivas USA. Juan Agudelo is their present.