Juan Agudelo is officially a member of Stoke City. And now he's leaving Stoke.
Agudelo agreed to a pre-contract with Stoke months ago, but he was denied a UK work permit so he can't actually play for the club. There was speculation that his move to the Potters would fall apart in the wake of his work permit denial, but they are sticking with him and will work around the issue by sending him out on loan for six months before applying for a work permit in the summer. Clubs in the Eredivisie, Juliper League and La Liga have all been linked to the striker, who is hoping to build on the best year of his career.
While Agudelo gained attention when he became the youngest player to ever score for the U.S. at the tender age of 17 back in 2010, he struggled to grab a foothold for the New York Red Bulls. He never showed the maturity or consistency to play every day, scoring amazing goals, but also failing to make some necessary runs or work to hold the ball up.
That all changed last season, a year after the Red Bulls dealt him to Chivas USA. He was excellent for Chivas, which was almost impossible on such a dreadful team, and got even better when the Goats traded him to the New England Revolution. He helped lead the Revs' second half surge to the playoffs and while his seven goals in 16 matches aren't remarkable, they are solid number and combined with his fantastic hold up play, high pressure and smart runs, he had finally started to become the striker that Americans had long wished for.
Agudelo isn't nearly ready for the national team yet. He still has to mature and become a more clinical finisher, as well as stronger on the ball, but he's moving in the right direction and at 21 years old, that will do for now. The striker made it clear that he intended to leave MLS when his contract ended in December to pursue a European career and that is exactly what he is doing. It's the next step for him and where he will have to prove he is ready to be a member of the senior national team.
It seems like a longshot that Agudelo can force his way into the World Cup squad, but it is not too crazy a thought. Jozy Altidore and Aron Johannsson will almost certainly make the trip, but there will be at least one more striker on the squad and a strong five months in Europe could make Agudelo that guy.
In the meantime, Agudelo gets to go on loan to a club that, theoretically, will play him. This after his permanent move is to a team that wants him so badly they'll wait for him. Not a bad gig.