McCarthy's Musings: New England moves for Juan Agudelo to address attacking concerns

Coaches, general managers and technical directors constantly survey the domestic market for upgrades. Those entreaties usually fail. Sometimes, they result in unexpected trades.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – New England general manager Michael Burns spent much of the last few months combing through the domestic and foreign markets for reinforcements up front.

His side probably needed another striker before the season started. The modest haul of four goals in eight games – including a club-record 394-minute stretch without a goal at one stage – intensified the hunt and reinforced the need for fresh options.

In the course of that search, Burns and the Revs sounded out Chivas USA about the status of Juan Agudelo. The former New York forward arrived in southern California last May after Hans Backe shipped him out of town for Heath Pearce (plus allocation money and future considerations), but his winter dalliance with Celtic placed his future with the Red-and-White – and the league as a whole, given his expiring deal at the end of the season and his evident desire to weigh potential opportunities abroad – in some doubt.

“Every team usually has a few guys that no one wants to move or no one wants to touch,” Burns said. “We didn't know if Juan would fit into that bucket, so to speak, for Chivas. When he didn't fit into that bucket, we pursued it.”

Agudelo's possible departure at the end of the season may have factored into the Red-and-White's decision to make him available, but it did not dissuade the Revs from their attempts to procure his services from the rest of the season.

At this late stage of Agudelo's pact, there really isn't much of a downside if the price is right. A somewhat unlikely summer sale – even at a knockdown price – would see them benefit substantially and likely recoup any allocation money expended. An earnest effort to re-sign the U.S. international at the end of the season would permit the club to retain his rights indefinitely even if he left MLS.

Most importantly, his immediate introduction – including his combination of pace over the top and his savvy in his buildup work and inside the penalty area – would offer a boost to a side in desperate need of attacking reinforcements. It made ample sense to sound out Chivas USA further and suss out the asking price.

“He quickly rose to the top of our wish-list and our want-list in terms of the forwards within the league that we thought we might be able to get a deal done with,” Burns said. “In the last 24-48 hours, it really came to fruition and we were able to get the deal done.

The modest price – an undisclosed amount of allocation money – befits the current situation and leaves the Revs with little exposure. Agudelo remains a player with a murky long-term future in the league, but he retains value for his ability to produce in front of goal (11 goals in 59 MLS appearances) and unsettle opposing defenses.

Agudelo also complements the current group of Revolution players rather well. He can operate underneath while Jerry Bengtson rides the line or Saër Sène surges behind it. He can replace Bengtson as the lone striker when the Honduran scampers away on international duty. He can even slide on either side of a front three, if Revolution coach Jay Heaps chooses to field all three strikers – if available and healthy, of course – at the same time.

The addition of Agudelo – and the return of Sène (four substitute appearances since returning from left ACL surgery) – expands the diversity of options at Heaps' disposal. And with the Revs generating a bit more from their buildup play since their switch to a 4-1-4-1 formation prior to the 2-0 victory over Philadelphia on April 27, the extra competition for places allows for chopping and changing to sharpen the currently imprecise work inside the penalty area.

“There have been a lot of comments – even within the locker room – about the fact that we've struggled to score goals this year,” Burns said. “We've done a very good job as a team defensively. We still feel that Juan brings something to us that we didn't have. Even though we weren't scoring a bunch of goals thus far, we still feel like we have the makeup of players that are capable of creating and scoring goals. We think Juan just brings something else to the table.”

Fortunately for the Revs, he did not bring quite enough to force Chivas USA to keep him away from it. Now the burden falls on Agudelo to recover from his recent left hamstring complaint, settle quickly and show well enough to ensure this particular set of phone calls ultimately reaps a significant return.

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