Why Juan Agudelo Could Be Primed for World Cup Stardom with the United States

John D. HalloranContributor IIJanuary 13, 2013

When Juan Agudelo burst onto the United States Men’s National Team scene shortly after the 2010 World Cup, the hype machine, as it typically does, kicked into full gear.

On November 17, 2010, just six days shy of his 18th birthday, Juan Agudelo entered the U.S.-South Africa friendly in Cape Town in the 61st minute with the score tied 0-0. In the 85th minute, off a gorgeous assist from fellow youngster Mix Diskerud, Agudelo scored, helping the U.S. snatch a late win.

Then, just four months later, in March of 2011, with the U.S. trailing world powerhouse Argentina 1-0, Agudelo came off the bench at halftime to score the game-tying goal.

As if those heroics weren’t enough to make Agudelo the next anointed superstar of the USMNT, 33 days later he scored one of the most spectacular goals in MLS history for his club at the time, the New York Red Bulls.

Since then, however, Agudelo’s career has hit a rough patch.

After struggling for starts in New York in 2011 with forwards Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers usually the preferred pairing up top, Agudelo was traded to Chivas USA shortly into the 2012 season. While Agudelo managed to collect a few more starts with his move to Chivas, the goals did not come. He finished the season with a paltry total of three goals, and Chivas finished dead last in the Western Conference.

However, after a decent enough showing in the United States' 2-2 draw with Russia in November, Agudelo has once again pushed his way into the U.S. national team picture.

Following the call-up for the friendly against Russia, Agudelo won another call-up to the national team, this time for the January camp that is currently training in Los Angeles.

With U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann saying that he will take between six and nine players from the January camp into the World Cup qualifiers that begin in February, now is the time for Agudelo to take his shot. He should be in good form and fully fit following his recent offseason training stints with Scottish giants Celtic and English Premier League side West Ham.

There’s also no doubt about Agudelo’s natural gifts.

Although he is still only 20 years old, which could certainly explain some of his inconsistency over the past two years, Agudelo’s technical skill and physical strength have never been in doubt. His youth can also be looked at as a strength because Agudelo could potentially play in four World Cups. If Agudelo played in World Cup 2026, he would be 33 years old.

Additionally, the U.S. currently has no clear-cut No. 9.

Clint Dempsey prefers to play slightly underneath the main striker, a position that Klinsmann also prefers to play Dempsey in. Herculez Gomez is a solid, yet unspectacular, forward. Jozy Altidore, despite his solid club form, has been underwhelming with the USMNT over the past 18 months. Klinsmann has also shown a hesitancy, for whatever reason, to start Terrence Boyd, despite Boyd’s frequent call-ups.

Agudelo is in prime position in the January camp to show Klinsmann he can get the job done.

The biggest hurdle still remaining for Agudelo is his club situation. Chivas USA is widely considered one of the worst teams in Major League Soccer. Not only does the team not perform on the field, but the organization is rife with management problems and is on its eighth head coach in 12 years.

However, there may be some relief for Agudelo on that front as well. Sky Sports reported Friday that Celtic is interested in signing Agudelo, a move that could help him escape the purgatory of Chivas USA. Agudelo even retweeted the Sky Sports story, though he has since deleted that tweet from his Twitter account.

While the relative quality of the Scottish Premier League can be debated, especially after the demotion of Rangers this summer, an escape from Chivas is important for Agudelo’s career development.

Now, entering 2013, Agudelo is ready for a big year. It’s up to him to step up and take his chance.

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