Can U.S. striker Agudelo be this year’s World Cup Dark Horse?

IMAGE, MLSSOCCER.COM

BY PATRICK MacDONALD
Staff Writer

Juan Agudelo had an active match for FC Utrecht this past Sunday in a loss to RKC Waaljwik, unleashing 7 shots — though none found their mark. That is about as good as it got for any of the Yanks Abroad in a weekend marred largely by injuries.

Agudelo’s steady progress on loan from Stoke is something worth watching for National Team fans — and coach Jurgen Klinsmann. Let’s be clear; he has a long way to go to shoot up to that 4th striker position and into the conversation for Brazil, but with one goal and one assist in short time, one never knows. Agudelo has been looking very active in each appearance, and the 21-year-old’s stock is steadily rising.

What will get Agudelo over that final hump? To garner some attention, he has to earn a call-up and feature in the USMNT’s March 5th friendly against Ukraine. To do that, he has to continue to produce with Utrecht. With a wide-open FIFA date in hand, Klinsmann will be bringing in a Euro heavy roster to Kharkiv. Presently, Agudelo can be considered the 4th best U.S. striker in Europe, making a once unlikely call-up, likely.

Beyond that, Agudelo’s chances of a call are aided by Klinsmann’s recent use of younger players with an eye beyond this year’s tournament. The former Red Bull product most certainly will be a factor in 2018. It’s hard to imagine the coach doesn’t want to take one last look at the youngster before the World Cup. After all, the only reason the talented striker is so far down the depth chart to begin with is because the U.S. has been so deep at that position to begin with.

A good idea for Agudelo to push his name up Klinsmann’s list, believe it or not, would be to rack up assists. Right now, Clint Dempsey is playing very poorly. So poorly, he couldn’t even get into the gameday 18 for bottom dwelling Fulham two matches in a row. That’s very alarming for a player that the National Team has relied so heavily upon over the past few years.

Right now, the role of second striker still belongs to the Seattle Sounder. However, over the next few months, if Agudelo can create opportunities for his Utrecht teammates, pick and choose his spots for goal scoring opportunities, he can mold himself into a Dempsey-like player, warranting consideration to at least be the primary backup at second striker.

The Altidore-Agudelo 1-2 punch certainly does whet one’s appetite, no?

While assists will help his cause, goals are what strikers are judged upon and the early signs are he’s going to be successful in the attack-friendly Eredivisie. Altidore aside, you have Aron Jóhannsson, Terence Boyd, Eddie Johnson, and Chris Wondolowski all in strong consideration for Brazil. As is the case around the world, their club form has warranted inclusion. To unseat them, Agudelo will have to start scoring, probably at an unrealistic goal-a-game pace to make such a run. It’s what Herculez Gomez had to do to earn his surprise call up in 2010, though he benefited from a very thin striker pool at the time.

Agudelo’s European ascent certainly bears watching in the coming weeks and months. His next match should be a juicy one for national team fans as Utrecht takes on Jóhannsson’s AZ.

Let the battle of the strikers begin.

  • Dave from Dix Hills

    I would love to see the kid get a chance. Swagudelo a rare breed in US soccer.

  • moocow

    In 6 appearances for Agudelo, FC Utrecht is 1-2-3 (W-D-L). He has one goal, one assist, and 3 of his 14 shots have been on target while averaging 77 minutes a game. They finally won a game he participated in 1-0, but all he did was miss at least 2 good chances and draw a yellow card. He scored 1 goal in his last 9 games at New England.

    1 goal, 1 assist, 6 games. 10 more to go to make an argument for himself…. good luck, kid.

    • Yes, unfortunately his quick start has certainly fizzled out. IF he’s called into the Ukraine match he needs to be lights out to have any hope.

  • moocow

    I hope he has a great, long career, and helps the USMNT in the long run. 2018 looks more realistic than 2014 for his year to shine… but to be fair a lot can happen in 10 Eredivisie games.