Young U.S. striker Juan Agudelo may be off the national team radar presently, but he certainly has not abandoned dreams of a World Cup 2014 roster spot.
In fact, boosting his chances of a landing a seat on that golden summer charter into Brazil, whatever they may be at this point, was a big factor in Agudelo’s choice to take a loan in high-scoring Holland at FC Utrecht.
So said the 21-year-old striker from England on Sunday as he spoke to Soccer Today (disclosure: it’s a weekly radio show/podcast I co-host along with Marc Stein). Agudelo is now property of the Premier League’s Stoke City after a prolonged and troubled transfer process. Having been denied a UK work permit, Agudelo was immediately sent away on loan to FC Utrecht in the Dutch Eredivisie, a league known for offense and one that has served other U.S. strikers so well.
“If the World Cup wasn’t in six months, I don’t know if I would have chosen Utrecht or not,” Agudelo told us. “But I’ve chose it now, this is what I’m going to do now, keep my head on straight and work as hard as I can to help the team out. Everybody wins once Utrecht wins.”
There was more from Agudelo in the interview as he prepared to move later that day to the Netherlands.
Altidore said he spoke to U.S. international Jozy Altidore, who had that breakout year at Alkmaar in the Netherlands just a year back.
We actually went out to dinner about five days ago and we spoke about it. He told me about how great that league is, and how I’m going to get a lot of chances. … He said he loved his time there and that he would go back. And it made me feel like Holland was a good place for me, because a lot of Americans have played there and gone well there.”
By the way, what a great mentor for Agudelo, even though Altidore is just a couple of years old. Both are from New Jersey, both started with the Red Bulls and now are following roughly parallel career paths.
Agudelo also said he was shocked that the work permit was denied last year – but equally flattered that Stoke City would continue to doggedly pursue the young American.
By the way, from what I understand, U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann did write a letter or recommendation for Agudelo despite some likely reservations, having written them for others before (Brek Shea, most notably) and then having watched the young American winger languish on the sidelines at Stoke City.