Plenty of soccer players around the Europe are linked with vague moves to leagues in the United States and Canada, but it’s rare to see what happened on Wednesday.
FC Utrecht in the Netherlands announced that it had mutually terminated the contract of defender Edson Braafheid after Braafheid decided to “permanently move” to the U.S. with his American wife and kids.
“My family is very important to me, that has now been shown again during the holidays,” Braafheid said in a statement. “Together with my American wife and children, I permanently move to America and I want to take the time to come to a definitive decision about my football career. The feeling has been playing through my head for a long time. This, combined with the small number of minutes of play, made me decide to cancel my contract.”
Braafheid came up as a professional with Utrecht and after a strong run at FC Twente, he earned a place in the Netherlands National Team as well as a move to Bayern Munich. But the German adventure didn’t pan out and Braafheid has bounced between clubs, struggling to find regular playing time for the past seven years.
It’s unclear which club he could go to, although one logical landing spot, at least on a trial basis, would be the Philadelphia Union, considering their technical director is Dutch-American Ernie Stewart.
But aside from the LA Galaxy, which are reported to be re-signing Ashley Cole, there probably aren’t many clubs looking at signing an aging left back to their roster for the upcoming season.
For Braafheid at least, he can consider himself one of the few to cancel his contract and journey to the unknown in the U.S.
Young star Rubio Rubin aims to take next step with USA, dreams of Olympic glory
Currently with the U.S. U-23 squad on a week’s training camp in England, 19-year-old Rubin has been rewarded for shining at the U-20 World Cup for the USA in June, as the predatory striker continues to impress. The FC Utrecht forward scored three times for Tab Ramos’ U-20 team as he spearheaded their run to the quarterfinals in New Zealand where they lost to eventual world champs Serbia on penalty kicks.
Reflecting on the transition from the U-20 side to the U-23 side, Rubin is eager to make a splash at the next age group after making it all the way through the U.S. residency program in Bradenton, Florida and playing at major tournaments for the U.S. along the way.
“This is my second time into camp and I’m trying to find some minutes and to prove a point. Just because it is guys from the 1993 group to whoever is old enough to play on the U-23s, I want to be on the qualifying roster and also at the Olympics in the future. As a team we want to prepare ourselves for the big qualifying tournament coming up, because it will not be easy.”
Coming off the back of a stellar display at the U-20 World Cup, Rubin believes the goals he scored in New Zealand, plus getting first team experience in the Dutch top-flight as a teenager over the past 12 months, has helped his progression and his confidence levels.
“It gave me a lot of confidence, especially after playing first team minutes at Utrecht last season,” Rubin explained. “And although I got a lot of first team minutes, there wasn’t as many scoring opportunities as I wanted and I was creating opportunities but not finishing them off. With the World Cup, I really needed to go in there and put away my chances. When the first goal came, I was like ‘man, this is great’ and then I started to gain confidence. Being with guys I grew up with and played with throughout the entire youth national team level down at IMG, those guys definitely give you confidence and playing with people you know definitely gives you confidence. That was the great part about playing at your own age level. It was great. We had a good run, but unfortunately we lost on PKs.”
From that group of players who starred for the U.S. at the U-20 World Cup, seven were called in by head coach Andi Herzog for this training camp ahead of the CONCACAF Olympic qualifying tournament in October. Rubin is confident that familiarity between this talented group of youngsters will help brings success at the next age group too.
“We have 24 guys here and to have seven guys from the U-20s shows a lot about how our youth teams are doing and how much competition there is. At the end of the day its about business but also about enjoying your football. They are going to pick the best players for qualifying and for the Olympics. If a guy is better and he is younger, no matter what they are always going to take the guy that is better… right? Fortunately we have seven guys and we deserve to be here and just want to take advantage of this opportunity and go out there and prove a point.”
What about his full debut for the U.S. which came out of the blue?
Rubin smiles uncontrollably when recalling a chilly night at Craven Cottage last November when he found out the day before the high-profile friendly vs. Colombia that he would be starting up top alongside Jozy Altidore. This is how he found out, with a little help from the latter…
“I remember the day before,” Rubin smiled. “We had a training session and had one hour on the field. Jozy Altidore went to the coach, Jurgen called him over, and Jurgen told Jozy that I was going to start with Jozy up top. And I remember doing the warmup and Jozy said something to me in Spanish, ‘estoy listo’ which translates to ‘be ready.’ And I was like, ‘what are you talking about?’ My emotions in that training session were already up because we were already going to see who’s going to start. Jozy just said ‘you’re starting tomorrow bro’ and from there I was like ‘damn.’
“I think I was more nervous for that training session than I was for the game. Game time came around and I wasn’t nervous at all. I was more excited and looking forward to the opportunity. Knowing that I was young and not everything was going to be perfect that day, but to keep everything as simple as possible. I tried to create opportunities and play my own game because there was a reason why I started. They aren’t going to start somebody who isn’t ready and I gained that mental aspect to myself and that confidence. I tried to do my best and I had a couple of opportunities that I should have finished, it was definitely the best moment so far of my career. It was amazing to play against James Rodriguez and guys who play top level football. It is just something you will never forget. People back home were watching and family members were crying to see that happening. It was a blessing to play in that game and start for your country. It is amazing to wear the United States’ colors.”
With three caps under his belt for his country, Rubin already has a strong connection to Team USA and particularly the Olympics. When asked what his favorite Olympic moment he watched while growing up in the U.S. Rubin took little time to deliberate before picking out his most memorable moment.
“Michael Phelps. When he won eight gold medals and seven of them were world records,” Rubin reminisced. “I still go back and actually last week I was watching videos of him, the video of all of his eight gold medals again. I get this feeling inside, of patriotism, when he wins the second and the seventh medal. The second medal is, I think, the relay race, and the French are talking smack before the race and then Lochte and the French guy are swimming and the commentator is saying ‘they won’t catch the French, I think USA is going to take Silver’ and then Lochte comes out of nowhere and beats him to the line. The fans go crazy and in the Summer Olympics, those moments are pretty crazy memories, especially that summer because Phelps was trying to break all the records and all the eyes were on him.”
How would Rubin fancy emulating those Olympic memories etched into his brain at Rio 2016 next summer?
“I’ve been to most tournaments with the youth teams apart from the U-17 World Cup and that’s a goal for sure,” Rubin said. “It would always be amazing to represent your country at the Olympics. There are so many memories and so much history. Hopefully as a team we can qualify first, that’s the main objective, and then hopefully as a team go to the Olympics and perform and try to win.”
Right here, right now, Rubin is focused on making an impression in the USA’s final warmup game before Olympic qualifying as they face Qatar on Tuesday in Bury, England. Along with making a splash for his country, pushing on for his club and becoming the next American striker to make a name for himself in the Dutch Eredivisie, following on from Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson, is also his aim. After scoring three goals in 29 appearances for Utrecht during his debut season as a professional in 2014-15, Rubin is ready to impress
“Eventually I want to come in week in, week out and try score goals and goals and goals,” Rubin said. “It takes time. As you can see with Jozy and Aron, it takes time. And also it’s about confidence as well because once you score a couple of goals, your momentum starts to go. I am just waiting for my moment to play more this year, it has been a little bit hard this year with competition because our strikers are scoring. I am still young and learning from them. Every single time I get a moment to play I want to take advantage of it and to score goals for my team and everything is going to be fine. I continue to chip away and learn from these guys and train on the things I need to work on, then hopefully, the goals come.”
What are those goals and targets for the immediate future? As you’ve probably gathered by now, it’s all about one thing for the poacher from Oregon: goals, goals and more goals.
“I want to double what I did last year,” Rubin laughed. “So that’s six goals or more. If I go more then I will be happy. Hopefully I get more playing time and then continue to score goals. Last year I scored three, so I want double this year and if I score six this year, I want 12 next year… then 24. I always want double.”
Rubio Rubin is one that got away from Major League Soccer – a U.S. U-level star who decided to finish his training in Europe. Formerly in the Timbers system, the Beaverton, Ore., attacker signed with the Netherlands’ FC Utrecht last year. When he turned 18 in March, Rubin finalized his move, beginning what U.S. Soccer hopes will be a long, successful professional career.
“He has to recover, so he won’t play for a while,” FC Utrecht press officer Martin Versteeg told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “He will return to training next week, but without contact.”
Rubin has played for both the U-20s and U-18s over the last three months, scoring the winning goal against Fluminense in the semifinals of April’s Dallas Cup. In early June, he was part of an 18-player squad that faced Norway, Portugal, and Sweden in Lisbon.
Sunday’s incident is an unfortunate turn, but provided both injuries are treated properly, the ailments should only be minor setbacks to his strong preseason. Originally expected to work his way through the reserves, Rubin has seen time with Utrecht’s senior team this summer. While he may not be ready for Utrecht’s Aug. 8 Eredivisie opener, a full recovery may not come long before his senior debut.
A second work-permit denial for Stoke City may have ended in a mutual parting of ways between Juan Agudelo and his Premier League employers, but his performance in the Eredivisie this season has Dutch clubs licking their chops.
Playing on loan for FC Utrecht after the first work permit denial in January, Agudelo scored thrice and added three assists in 14 matches.
The American striker won’t turn 22 until November and, according to MLSSoccer.com, has opened the eyes of the Netherlands soccer faithful.
Sources in the Netherlands have confirmed to MLSsoccer.com that the 21-year-old US international, fresh off a loan stint with FC Utrecht, has considerable interest around a league well-known for shaping attackers. It is not yet known if the Galgenwaard Stadion club are among those who intend an attempt at signing Agudelo on a permanent deal.
After the first work permit rejection with Stoke, Agudelo also had loan interest from league rivals FC Twente and NEC Nijmegen, among others.
With 29 shots in 14 appearances, it isn’t hard to believe he’s desired in the Netherlands… but what about the rest of Europe? England seems to be out of the question, but will Agudelo look into interest from other nations, or will knowing he’d be fine to make the grade in the Eredivisie keep him there?
Was he offside? Maybe, but that’s difficult to tell from this angle and sure doesn’t change the fact that Juan Agudelo was Man of the Match with a goal and an assist in FC Utrecht’s 2-1 win over Vitesse on Saturday.
The first goal put Utrecht up 1-0 as Agudelo’s bad touch ends up qualifying as an assist. After a dazzling move gets the ball on Agudelo’s path, he nudges the ball to the side and Steve de Ridder is right there to burying the opener.
But the match-winner was a nice one. Agudelo has to time his run very well to get in the path of a well-played ball and deftly touches the ball past Vitesse Arnhem keeper Piet Velthuizen. Check it out below:
Agudelo now has two goals in his past three matches, with three total to go with three assists in his 14 appearances since going on loan to Utrecht after failing to obtain a work permit for new club Stoke City. With both Agudelo and Terrence Boyd (scored again Sunday) in good European form, could one leapfrog Eddie Johnson for a World Cup spot?