LIMASSOL, Cyprus – Juan Agudelo may just be settling into his first European job, but already he has a clear goal in mind: Use his place with FC Utrecht make a late push for a spot on the US national team's plane to Brazil this summer.
The striker, who is on loan in the Netherlands until he can obtain a work permit to play for parent club Stoke City, is one of a number of players looking to force their way into the 23-man squad for the upcoming World Cup. And Wednesday’s friendly for the USMNT against Ukraine in Cyprus (2 pm ET; ESPN2, UniMas) gives the 21-year-old the perfect opportunity to show off exactly what he has learned so far in his time with Utrecht.
“I think any move to a European club is a big deal,” Agudelo told reporters at USMNT training on Tuesday. “If you do well there, it shows you can perform well against the kind of top-class teams that go to the World Cup.
“I need to make it hard for [Klinsmann] to not pick me to go to the World Cup. I can only do that through working hard and working even harder than the rest, because the competition is there and there aren’t enough places to please everyone.”
By playing in the Eredivisie, Agudelo follows a precedent set before him by US strikers Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson, who have both excelled in Dutch soccer.
“I talk to them about Dutch football quite a bit,” said Agudelo. “They just told me that it’s a league that as a striker you get chances in, but it’s about being able to finish them off. There are a lot of quality players there and there is a lot of space to work with compared to other leagues in Europe.”
Agudelo has scored once in his first six appearances for FC Utrecht as he begins to find his feet in the Netherlands, and knows he must keep finding the net to catch Klinsmann's eye. Now he has an opportunity to prove his worth as an international, building on the promise that saw him become the youngest player to score a senior team goal for the US back in 2010
“If I get the opportunity to get on the field [against Ukraine], it’s important that I make the most of it,” he continued. “So I have to work hard and hope I can make an impression, whether it’s an assist or scoring a goal or working hard on defense and contributing to what we hope will be a positive result.”
For several players on the roster for Wednesday’s friendly against Ukraine, time is running out to make an impression. It sure feels like do or die time, although Agudelo doesn’t see it as such.
“If I don’t perform well in one game it doesn’t [knock me out of contention for the World Cup],” Agudelo insisted. “It’s different if I don’t perform well on multiple occasions. Then I wouldn’t deserve to go to the World Cup. But I’m not worried about that. I’m just going to try and have some fun and if I make it, great.”