Juan Agudelo finally has a chance to play soccer in a foreign country. The catch? He’ll still be in Major League Soccer.
Agudelo, a striker who has long expressed a desire to compete overseas, but has run into hurdle after hurdle along the way, could be set to move to Canada next season after Toronto FC selected him Tuesday in Stage Two of the MLS Re-Entry Draft.
New England has been Agudelo’s home for most of the past six years. He joined the Revolution in 2013 via a trade with now-defunct Chivas USA, played the remainder of the season, and then departed for England that fall to join Stoke City in the English Premier League.
Agudelo never suited up for Stoke City as he failed to obtain a British work permit. He subsequently went on loan to FC Utrecht in the Dutch Eredivisie and attempted to establish permanent residency in Europe by purchasing property in Cyprus.
He eventually returned to the Revolution in 2015 despite interest from clubs in Spain and Turkey, and has said numerous times since he wants another chance abroad.
As far as 2020 goes, moving north of the border might have to do.
Agudelo, who has represented the U.S. men’s national team sporadically since 2010, will join American veterans Michael Bradley, Omar Gonzalez, and Jozy Altidore in Toronto if he and the club can agree to a new contract.
Per Re-Entry Draft rules, MLS clubs can offer any player they select a new salary within seven days of selection.
Toronto will likely offer Agudelo less than his current salary, which the MLS Players Association pegs at $605,000 for the 2019 season.
Agudelo was one of the Revolution’s highest earners last season despite his struggles to contribute on a consistent basis. He recorded three goals and one assist in 28 regular season games in 2019, as head coach Bruce Arena, like his predecessors Brad Friedel and Jay Heaps, struggled to find a place on the field where Agudelo could be an impact player.
But Toronto coach Greg Vanney could be looking to unearth the potential Agudelo has been hyped to have for the past decade.
The hype comes from an earnest place: At times, Agudelo has played like a transcendent star who dazzles with unique runs into the attack, step-overs, jukes and skill-moves that seem possible only in latest version of the FIFA video game.
He scored in his competitive international debut for the USMNT against South Africa in 2010, and converted off a corner kick in a 1-1 tie against Argentina the following year.
Agudelo has recorded 43 goals in 215 MLS regular season games and also has three goals in 28 appearances with the U.S.
Because of his skills, and some of the jaw-dropping ways he has put the ball in the back of the net for club and country, he has earned the nickname “Swagudelo.”
But getting the best version of Agudelo eluded the Revolution, Chivas USA, and the New York Red Bulls, which signed Agudelo in 2010 out of its developmental academy.
Now Toronto FC, which has expressed a desire to add depth to the forward position, is lined up to be next in line to try.