Juan Agudelo is currently one of the United States’ most popular and exciting young soccer players.
New York Red Bulls fans were excited to call him their own. Their opinions were heard when Hans Backe wouldn’t play him. Many were surprised and disappointed to hear that the club favorite was traded to Chivas USA.
But after the shock subsides, Red Bull fans should know one thing: the trade actually works in the team’s favor.
The deal that has been reported is that the Red Bulls will send Agudelo to Chivas USA in exchange for defender Heath Pearce. New York will also receive allocation money, a cut of any sale of Agudelo to a foreign league and Chivas will pay for part of Pearce’s salary.
It’s quite a haul for a player that has only appeared in four games this season and isn’t considered a starter when the entire first team is healthy.
Fairly or unfairly, whatever the case, Agudelo has been stuck on the bench and in head coach Hans Backe’s doghouse the past two seasons.
Last year Agudelo managed to score six goals and had two assists in 27 games played (12 starts), but even when forward Luke Rodgers was injured (which was often) Backe preferred to play Dane Richards up front before letting the young American into the lineup.
This year he spent time with the US team that attempted to qualify for the Olympics and there he picked up an injury. Agudelo was available to play in the team’s past two games, but came off the bench, even with Thierry Henry injured.
The Red Bulls will get Pearce, another member of the USMNT player pool, as well as a versatile defender, to shore up the patchwork and inconsistent defensive line.
Although the Red Bulls had three straight shutout victories prior to Sunday’s 3-2 win over Philadelphia, only two teams have yielded more than the 16 goals the Red Bulls have surrendered over the course of the season.
They have started an inexperienced back four of Markus Holgersson, Tyler Ruthven and Conor Lade recently along with Jan Gunnar Solli or Roy Miller.
Pearce is a versatile defender that is one of the league’s best at either the left back or center back position. He also does a very good job of getting forward and crossing the ball while not compromising his defensive responsibilities.
For Chivas to pay part of his salary helps free up cap space to use on additional help, as does the nice sum of allocation money the team receives.
The Red Bulls front office is notorious for preferring to sign international talent, so having extra allocation money will help bring in the additional midfield playmaker and depth at forward (possibly Rodgers if he can get his visa issues straightened out) that the team needs.
Another question is how long Agudelo will stay in MLS. European clubs came calling this winter and they probably will continue their pursuit of the American prospect this summer. If Agudelo does in fact get sold, the Red Bulls will still get a cut of that transaction.
It’s not to say Agudelo isn’t or won’t be a good player. He could have great success with increased playing time and support. But New York received plenty of value in exchange for him. They received assets that can immediately help the team in pursuit of its first trophy.
For a player that was having difficulty coming off the bench and making an impact receiving this much compensation—essentially selling high—is a best-case scenario for the Red Bulls.