Dutch Eredivisie - Roda JC Kerkrade v FC Utrecht

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



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.

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.

Agent: “There’s no hatred” between Bale, Ronaldo

Gareth Bale & Cristiano Ronaldo, Real Madrid CF
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Gareth Bale doesn’t at all dislike Cristiano Ronaldo — or vice versa — despite what may seem a lukewarm on-field relationship between the two Real Madrid superstars, insists Jonathan Barnett, agent of Bale.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

Instead, Barnett insists that the two men with very different personalities have a healthy relationship, and competition, that pushes each Galactico to be the best player he can be.

Barnett, on Bale’s relationship with Ronaldo — quotes from the Guardian:

“They don’t go out eating every night together, but it’s fine. There’s no hatred there. Gareth is a quiet guy. They’re complete opposites. But I think Gareth can learn a little bit from Ronaldo as well, interacting maybe a little bit. But he wants his own life and he lives it. Gareth is a great footballer, he doesn’t want anything more. He has some very good endorsements but his whole life is to be the best footballer in the world. I don’t think he wants to be the best model in the world or the best underwear seller. That’s not him.”

That’s a hilarious closing quote from Barnett, but he knows exactly how some folks are going to interpret it: “Bale thinks Ronaldo loves himself too much.”

[ MORE: Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott ]

There’s nothing better for the ultimate success of a team than healthy, friendly competition between teammates who are spectacularly talented as Ronaldo and Bale. The former will only be around to perform at his current level for so much longer, but at what point does the latter officially take the torch and supplant Madrid’s biggest star, and how accepting will he be of passing that proverbial torch?

Olivier Giroud: “I must harden myself” to unseat Walcott

Olivier Giroud, France
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Is it just me, or does the press really only ever get noteworthy quotes from players during international breaks?

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s PL coverage ]

I suppose it’s not surprising, given Premier League players get away from the mean ole British press, go back to their respective homelands and speak with journalists they’ve likely known since their early playing days, thus feel more comfortable opening up about key issues.

Anyway, today we have Olivier Giroud essentially calling himself out for having lost the starting striker’s job at Arsenal because he’s been outplayed of late by Theo Walcott. As discussed before, this is bad news for Giroud because he’s now falling down the depth chart for France with next summer’s European Championship on the horizon.

[ MORE: Aguero admits he wants Guardiola link-up ]

Giroud, on losing his place at Arsenal — quotes from the Guardian:

“At Arsenal, I am in competition with Theo for the striker position. But he is doing well at the moment, so there is no reason to change.

“Whether it was at Tours, Montpellier or Arsenal, I have never experienced a situation like this, I have often played from the start. I need to take positives and to harden myself mentally. It is something new for me.

“I was in [Walcott’s] place in previous seasons at Arsenal. I imagine what he must have been thinking. But I feel that the coach believes in me.”

Giroud goes on to cast into doubt his own confidence, stating in very certain terms he needs “to believe more in [his] abilities.” Giroud’s always come across as a bit of an existentialist, but it’s always strange to hear players publicly call themselves out — particularly their confidence — as if that’s not going to increase the pressure currently weighing down on them.

[ MORE: Rodgers reportedly chosen to take over at Aston Villa ]

The next eight months are going to be monumentally important in Giroud’s career, as the 29-year-old attempts to prove he’s worth keeping around at Arsenal and deserving of a place in the national team squad for next summer’s EUROs, which are to be played in France.