It's settled: Juan Agudelo has played his last game as a member of the New York Red Bulls. But his leaving the club has more to do with him wanting to than anything else.
Red Bulls general manager and sporting director Erik Solér spoke to the media via conference call on Thursday afternoon to discuss the trade that sent Agudelo to Chivas USA, and he revealed discussions about potentially moving the young US men’s national team forward began a while ago.
“We had conversations with Juan for a long period of time about the future and his development,” Solér told reportersl. “He thought that his chances to develop as a player would be better if he played somewhere else.”
WATCH: Agudelo goes close on his bike
Solér added that letting go of Agudelo is not something the Red Bulls wanted, having turned down repeated offers from Europe during the past two years for the 19-year-old.
Ultimately, Agudelo’s desire for more playing time combined with Chivas USA’s offer of veteran defender Heath Pearce, allocation money and future considerations were too good to pass up, especially for a team looking to further strengthen itself in defense.
“We know that LA had 15 shutouts or something like that,” said Solér, referencing the success of the MLS Cup 2011 champions LA Galaxy. “We know they scored less goals than we did last season but they did not win the league because they scored a lot of goals. They won the league because they had a very solid defense.”
In Pearce, the Red Bulls acquire a versatile and experienced defender who Soler said could also play as a defensive midfielder. Pearce brings with him plenty of experience, having played in World Cup qualifiers and in past Gold Cups with the United States.
Pearce, who is expected to be available for selection ahead this Saturday’s road game against the Montreal Impact (7:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), also brings an added dimension to New York’s attack.
“He’s a very good guy on the ball," said Solér. “He also tries to keep the ball and spread it around.”
While gaining another solid defender in Pearce, the Red Bulls have lost depth up top. Agudelo, who was behind red-hot strikers Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper on the depth chart, was the only other pure forward that head coach Hans Backe seemed confident enough to insert into games.
The Red Bulls acknowledge that Agudelo’s absence means they need to address their lack of options at forward, even if it is not in the immediate future.
“We certainly understand that need to do something on the attacking side,” said Solér. “The positive thing about [trading him] now is that we have a game on Saturday and Wednesday [before a break in league play] and then we have two Open Cup games.”
Losing Agudelo may not be what some Red Bulls fans would have hoped for after seeing other academy players (Sacir Hot and Matt Kassel) let go earlier this year. But this time the club was simply fulfilling the wishes of a young player while also improving the talent on the roster.
“We invested a lot of time and money in him and we wanted him to stay,” said Solér, “but he wanted to try something else and we support that.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.