As part of a new weekly series on MLSsoccer.com, senior writer Jeff Bradley spends 10 minutes with some of the biggest names in North American soccer to talk about how they’ve made their mark on the game through the years.
His subject this week, New England Revolution striker Juan Agudelo, is trying to finish his season in style before heading to England to join Stoke City. Agudelo burst onto the scene with the New York Red Bulls in 2010, showing enough fire and talent to earn some call-ups to the US national team at the age of 18. Since then, he’s been traded twice, battled some injuries and now, at 20, is once again showing that he has rare abilities as a striker.
BRADLEY: What’s it been like being a part of a Revolution team that’s played pretty well since you came over in a trade from Chivas USA?
AGUDELO: It’s been a lot of fun. It’s a great group of guys, on and off the field. Getting wins with this group is a good feeling. We’re definitely all-in together. I think people are starting to see this team has potential. When we play well, we play really well.
BRADLEY: Of the three places you’ve played in MLS -- New York, Chivas USA, and New England -- how does this environment compare? Was it easy to adjust?
AGUDELO: Obviously, it’s a different environment everywhere you go, but it’s been good here. Dealing with the turf was one issue, but I think I got adjusted pretty fast. And I feel like when I’ve been healthy, I’ve done well.
BRADLEY: You’ll be moving to Stoke City in the English Premier League when the season is over. What was the whole thought process like in deciding to make that move?
AGUDELO: It was basically, as I played and knew my contract was up, I began to think of possibly making a move overseas. When the chance came up with Stoke, it was hard to say no. Especially at my age, I felt it was important to take the chance rather than possibly have regrets down the road that I didn’t give it a shot when the opportunity was there.
New England Revolution star Juan Agudelo says even a Designated Player contract may not have kept him in MLS. "I want to take my shot in England," he says.
(USA Today Sports)
BRADLEY: Would you have considered staying on a Designated Player contract?
AGUDELO: Yeah, maybe. But I don’t know if anything could have changed my mind. I’m not really sure there’s anything that would’ve kept me around. I want to take my shot in England.
BRADLEY: New York, Los Angeles, Boston. How are you going to adjust to life in Stoke?
AGUDELO: I have no idea, but I’m hoping it will help to be around some familiar faces in Marice Edu, Geoff Cameron and Brek Shea. I’m adjustable in the US, but I won’t know if I’m adjustable to life in a foreign country until I give it a shot. I think I’ll handle myself well. I’ve been pretty much living on my own since I was in residency.
BRADLEY: Who’s your favorite player in MLS?
AGUDELO: Marco DiVaio of Montreal has been the man this year. That’s a guy I really enjoy watching, just his movements on the field and the way he plays. I think he’s by far the best strike in the league this year.
BRADLEY: And what do you make of Clint Dempsey's return to the league? What’s it like to see an American player in his prime returning to MLS and making so much money?
AGUDELO: I think that helps out a lot of us who are thinking we’ll be back in MLS after our spells in Europe are over. I’m really happy for him. I don’t know if Clint even realizes what he’s done for the whole league by coming back, but it’s huge. The whole process of making the league better took a huge step with him coming back. It’s awesome for him.
BRADLEY: What do you think you have to do to get back in the national team mix?
AGUDELO: I’m not sure, but the main thing is to keep doing what I’ve been doing when I’m healthy. The main thing, the first thing, is to stay on the field. I feel when I’m on the field I’ve been able to provide for my teammates. So my main focus is just to keep playing well.
BRADLEY: Certainly, some of the goals you’ve scored lately will get you attention. That backheel goal against Chicago [video above], is that something you’ve ever done before?
AGUDELO: Never did that in practice. Would probably never even think about doing something like that in practice. It was just an instinct when I saw the keeper was really close to me. I guess the salsa lessons are paying off.
BRADLEY: Best goal you ever scored?
AGUDELO: I like the one against D.C., when I flicked it up and shot it. But the most meaningful goal I ever scored was my first goal for the US national team against South Africa.
BRADLEY: You and Diego Fagundez seem to be having fun on the field together. What’s it like playing with him?
AGUDELO: Yeah, it’s fun playing with Diego. He’s a kid that never seems to get tired. He’s kind of like a free player who doesn’t think too much. He plays with a lot of freedom. He’s great to play with because he’s always on the move, making space for me. And when I open up space for him, he recognizes it and takes advantage.
BRADLEY: Goals before you leave for England?
AGUDELO: Make the playoffs. And if we achieve that goal, win the Cup.