VIDEO: Juan Agudelo scores first goal for FC Utrecht, will he make late World Cup charge?

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After just three games in Europe, Juan Agudelo notched his first league goal on foreign soil as the Stoke City attacker, on loan to Dutch side FC Utrecht, bagged a beauty to give everyone a reminder that he hasn’t left MLS to mess around.

Agudelo is still just 21-year-old, but following his January move to Stoke City which saw him immediately loaned out to Utrecht in the Dutch Eredivisie due to work permit issues, the U.S. international forward is certainly taking to life in Europe.

During his current loan spell to Utrecht, Agudelo has reminded us of the 17-year-old kid that burst onto the scene in 2010 when he scored in two of his first three senior international for the USMNT, including this beauty vs. Argentina at MetLife Stadium.

On Thursday night against FC Zwolle he picked the ball up on the edge of the box, performed a fluid half turn and then rifled the ball into the top corner with his right foot to put Utrecht 1-0 up. The Dutch side ended up losing 2-1 (minor details) but Agudelo put in a solid performance that shows his game is developing and he is more than capable of making a concerted push to get on the plane to Brazil.

(MORE: Klinsmann says roster door remains open, regular match time a must for USMNT hopefuls)

It seemed as though the career of the promising young striker, who came through the MLS academy system with the New York Red Bulls and then bounced around to Chivas USA and the New England Revolution, was starting to falter. But this loan move and regular action overseas could be exactly what he needs to get back into the U.S. fold.

This summer may be too quick for Agudelo to worm his way back into Klinsmann’s plans, but after the U.S. head coach spoke on Tuesday about the likes of Tim Ream, Oguchi Onyewu, Danny Williams and Timmy Chandler getting a second chance and that the majority of his squad for the friendly vs. Ukraine in March will be from his European contingent.

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Will Agudelo be on the plane to Brazil this summer? It is a big ask…

Surely Agudelo has one more chance to shine in front of the U.S. coaches?

And let’s face it, with Jozy Altidore struggling for goals at Sunderland, and only Aron Johannsson and Chris Wondolowski as out-and-out strikers to back up Jozy (let’s assume Eddie Johnson will operate out wide) surely Agudelo has an outside chance of going to Brazil?

I know, I know, for all you skeptics out there I realize this was only one goal in the Dutch top-flight, which many believe to be one of European soccer’s backwaters when it really isn’t, but coming from someone who has seen Agudelo up close and personal tear up top European opposition back at the 2011 Emirates Cup, this kid has got genuine talent.

After his New York team scored a late equalizer against Arsenal to win the Emirates Cup, a prestigious preseason tournament that included Boca Junior, Arsenal and Paris Saint-Germain, I spoke to Agudelo in the tunnel at the Emirates Stadium about playing in Europe” “This is where it’s at man, this is where I want to be,” he replied.

(MORE: Americans Abroad Review – Cameron dependable in upset, Agudelo picks up assist)

Now he’s finally in Europe, I think this kid has come along way since his raw athleticism often stole the show a few years back.

Last fall the reaction from New England Revolution fans was telling when Agudelo decided to head to Europe, they did not want to see him leave MLS. But even if he doesn’t make the plane to Brazil, Agudelo’s European experience at Utrecht will do him the world of good. Plus if he ever gets a work permit and is allowed to play for his parent club Stoke City in the PL, I’d expect him to shine there too.

But right now, these next few months are huge for Agudelo. Given the chance, this kid can play. He has pace to burn, an eye for goal and he has no fear when he brings his A-game.

I have no doubts Klinsmann will be keeping a close eye on Agudelo between now and May.

Steven Gerrard didn’t want any part of Coutinho in training

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Steven Gerrard has issued some fairly hilarious comments regarding former Liverpool teammate Philippe Coutinho.

The Premier League legend admits there were days in training that the sight of the Brazilian wizard on the other side of the pitch made him lash out.

[ MORE: Palace fans must be patient ]

It seems Gerrard wanted nothing to do with marking Coutinho in small-sided games, and the idea of “Stevie G” spouting off in frustration when Brendan Rodgers posted Coutinho across from him is a wonderful mental picture.

From The Liverpool Echo:

“He’s impossible to defend against,” Gerrard told BT Sport after Saturday’s game.

“I mean when I used to train against him, I’d hate it if I was on the opposite five-a-side team. I wouldn’t go near him. And sometimes I’d say to him: ‘Keep away from me! He can embarrass you [as a defender]. He can stand you up, he can both ways, he’s got such a low centre of gravity. He’s sharp, he’s quick and he’s two or three steps ahead of defenders. He’s so, so clever.”

Again, the vision of Gerrard throwing his hands up with a “Nope, not having this today” is amazing. Even if exaggerated, we love it. We picture that old meme with the office worked tossing papers through the air.

Patience with Hodgson required by Palace

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Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson is 0-2 in his new gig and the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t exactly within touching distance.

The latest defeat is a 5-0 blowout at Manchester City, and the immediate road ahead is sobering: at Manchester United and home to Chelsea. Following a trip to Newcastle, who is in form, the Eagles have matches vs. West Ham, at Spurs, and versus Everton.

[ MORE: Premier League Sat. roundup ]

Palace is 0-6 overall and the first team in the history of the Premier League to go goalless through its first six matches.

Palace fired Frank De Boer after four league matches and a summer in which the club failed to add much to its squad.

And Hodgson is feeling his way through the dark. Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this is the timing of Palace’s change.

From the BBC:

“I am learning about the team all the time and they are learning,” said Hodgson.

“Our focus has to be in May. By the latter part of the season the players must know what we are looking for. They should feel stronger by then.”

To be shooting for May has to be overwhelming for the Selhurst Park faithful but may indicate their most reasonable promise of life in the Premier League.

Palace fans cannot afford to get caught up in how Sam Allardyce saved them a year ago, because his turnaround coincided with the Eagles’ purchases of Luka MilivojevicMamadou Sakho, and Patrick Van Aanholt. An influx of talent does not save a season alone, but we’re fairly sure Alan Pardew would’ve relished the chance to work with two new backs and a stabilizing center midfielder.

Remember that Allardyce then retired, which says something given his willingness to bask in any light in which he can claim a modicum of credit.

So Hodgson, known for his relentless training methods, needs to be given his time. Palace will likely have at-most one point after the next two PL matches, and they may have not scored yet. History can be daunting, but supporters need to exhale and realize the road ahead is long.

Kenya loses hosting rights to 2018 African Nations Championship

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ACCRA, Ghana (AP) Kenya has been stripped of the right to host the 2018 African Nations Championship.

The Confederation of Africa Football cited “accumulated delays” in Kenya’s preparations for the tournament, which is the continental championship for players playing in their home leagues.

[ MORE: Premier League Sat. roundup ]

CAF made the decision to take the tournament away from Kenya at an executive committee meeting in Accra, Ghana, on Saturday and opened the bidding process for a new host on Sunday. CAF says applications must be received by next Sunday and the new host will be announced in just over two weeks.

The African Nations Championship is scheduled to be played from Jan. 12-Feb. 4.

Kenya’s preparations for the 16-team tournament were already troubled before August when its presidential elections were nullified and a re-vote was ordered. That re-vote is scheduled for next month, and the political instability has meant preparations for the soccer tournament have been undermined.

CAF also says it is opening a tender process to recruit an audit firm to examine Cameroon’s preparations for the 2019 African Cup of Nations, Africa’s top soccer event.

Like Kenya, Cameroon’s readiness to host the Cup of Nations has been under scrutiny. CAF says it needs to examine the state of Cameroon’s “infrastructure to host the tournament,” with the 2019 Cup of Nations the first to be expanded from 16 to 24 teams.

MLS Snapshot: Red-hot RSL end Sounders’ unbeaten run at 13

Photo credit: Real Salt Lake / @RealSaltLake
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The game in 100 words (or less): With the Seattle Sounders’ 13-game unbeaten run now a thing of the past (and the final four of those games all draws), Real Salt Lake (two losses in their last two, including wins in four of their last five) might just be the hottest team in MLS not named Atlanta United (just one loss in their last 12, including wins in three of their last four; combined score: 17-3). Furthermore, Saturday’s 2-0 victory over Seattle at Rio Tinto Stadium boosts RSL into fifth place in the Western Conference, two points clear of the San Jose Earthquakes and Houston Dynamo, as Mike Petke’s side makes this year’s improbable, late charge toward the MLS Cup Playoffs, in much the same fashion Brian Schmetzer’s Sounders did a year ago. Jefferson Savarino, who scored one and assisted one on Saturday, has proven himself a star on the rise in recent weeks, and has RSL playing their best soccer of the year at exactly the right time.

[ MORE: MLS weekend preview — ATL host MTL; RSL desperate vs. SEA ]

Three moments that mattered

52′ — Savarino slams home Rusnak’s pass for 1-0 — RSL have themselves an attacking trio (Savarino, Albert Rusnak and Brooks Lennon) that loves to play together, and that joy really shines brightly in moments like this.

66′ — Mulholland slams home from Savarino’s cross for 2-0 — Savarino turned provider just 15 minutes later, getting in behind Joevin Jones, corralling Joao Plata’s through ball, and picking out Mulholland atop the six-yard box.

92′ — Rimando makes a stunning save to deny Dempsey — Clint Dempsey tried to sneak a quick free kick past Nick Rimando, but the all-time greatest goalkeeper in MLS history was over it.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Jefferson Savarino

Goalscorers: Savarino (52′), Mulholland (66′)