Injuries, a cross-country relocation and his club’s nightmarish season have added up to a challenging 2012 for Juan Agudelo.
The Chivas USA striker has already kicked off his offseason on a promising note, however, thanks to a surprise – and surprisingly fruitful – US national team call-up and an offseason training stint with Scottish powerhouse Celtic FC.
Agudelo was one of the most surprising inclusions on Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster for Wednesday’s friendly against Russia. Yet he more than justified the US coach’s faith with an impact performance, coming off the bench to log 27 effective minutes up top, highlighted by his assist on Michael Bradley’s goal as the Yanks fought back to earn a 2-2 draw.
“It felt great,” Agudelo told MLSsoccer.com by phone interview on Thursday. “I was just trying to do what any sub would try to do when the team is down, you know? I would do anything I could possibly do to help the team in that position.
“I tried my best to help out the team up there.”
The Colombian-born product of the New York Red Bulls youth academy celebrates his 20th birthday next week, and he’ll do so in Glasgow, on his third European club experience in the past year.
“It’s beneficial in every single way,” Agudelo’s agent, Ron Waxman, explained on Friday. “Last year he went to Stuttgart and Liverpool, this year he’s going to Celtic. It’s a good club for him to get some very good training – one of the biggest clubs in the world.”
Agudelo was a breakout star for New York last season, scoring six goals in 12 starts and drawing worldwide attention for his potential. But he began this year inauspiciously, spraining his ankle during the national team’s January camp.
That knock was soon eclipsed by a torn meniscus in his left knee, sustained after he scored the team’s second goal in the US Under-23 national team’s first match of CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, a 6-0 trouncing of Cuba. The U-23s’ quest for London went down in flames shortly thereafter, and when Agudelo worked his way back to full fitness with the Red Bulls, goals were scarce and a sudden trade sent him west to Chivas USA in May.
He was greeted warmly in California but the Goats ended up stumbling to one of the worst records in the league, capped by a 14-game winless skid to close out the season. Turnover in the front office and a complete cull of the technical staff has created an air of uncertainty around the club heading into 2013, further heightening the value of Agudelo’s successful time with the US squad.
“I’m a positive person, so I don’t let things get to me too much,” he said. “But yeah, being back on the team and being a part of the national team again, that definitely gives me confidence. I’m always so happy to be here every single time.”
Agudelo said he received encouraging feedback on his performance from the famously upbeat Klinsmann on Wednesday – “He was very happy with me,” said the 19-year-old – and if he can build on this return to international play, both the US and Chivas USA stand to benefit greatly.