CARSON, Calif -- Juan Agudelo at goalkeeper?
It might sound crazy, and it's not likely to ever happen, but that’s how badly the New England Revolution forward wants to be on the field for the US national team.
When asked if he’d be comfortable playing on the wing, given the plethora of young strikers currently in the January training camp, Agudelo said, “If they need me as a keeper, I’m comfortable out there.”
This has the potential to be a big year for the 24-year-old, whose career at the national team level up until now has been undeveloped. Since a 2011 campaign where Agudelo earned 14 of his 21 career caps, call-ups have been sparse. It’s given him perspective on these opportunities, and he’s not taking the chance to impress a new group of coaches lightly.
“Definitely feels like an important year,” said Agudelo. “I’ve prepared myself, felt very good coming into camp. Hopefully this gives me a head start going into the season.
“No matter what happens with these upcoming games, I’m just happy to be a part of it. To have that catapult into 2017, I think it was very important for me to start off this way.”
For Agudelo, these January camps are familiar even if they haven’t led to national team appearances later in the year. As the team ramps up for the road to qualifying for FIFA World Cup 2018 in Russia, Agudelo has appreciated the feedback he’s gotten from new USMNT head coach Bruce Arena.
“Just trying to get integrated with a couple of guys,” said Agudelo. “Feels like I’ve been in this league a lot because I’ve built a good relationship so far with a couple of players.
“With regards to Bruce, I feel like he’s doing a very good job letting the players understand what he would like from us already. Especially for me as a striker how to press, and how to defend, and how to be in the attacking half.”
Agudelo missed some time last season in New England with a knee injury and then had to work on forging a partnership with new teammate Kei Kamara, who joined via trade midseason. Things did start to click for them toward the end of the season, and that gives Agudelo hope for 2017.
“I thought it was just not enough time to get that partnership,” said Agudelo. “Things started clicking in the last eight games. Unfortunately it didn’t click maybe two games earlier than that because we probably would have been in the playoffs and made a push, because the teams that are on a hot streak at the end of the season are usually the teams that get far in the playoffs.
“Unfortunately we were just a little bit short, but we just need to sort out the little things. My partnership with him, we get along very well. I enjoy him on and off the field.”