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Chivas USA 2012 Player Postmortem: Juan Agudelo

The young forward had a tough season, but where does the responsibility lie?

Agudelo: A tough 2012, but will he come good in 2013?
Agudelo: A tough 2012, but will he come good in 2013?

In the end, the May trade for Juan Agudelo was the biggest move of Chivas USA's season. Did that make it the most successful? In 2012, no, but if he comes back for 2013, he will hopefully show why he is a part of the U.S. Men's National Team picture and why he's getting interest from European clubs.

There are a few ways of looking at Agudelo's tenure with Chivas. On one hand, he scored four goals between two competitions this year with the Goats, less than what he scored in 2011 with the New York Red Bulls (6 goals), and a paltry amount for over 1,500 minutes played. If he was expected to break out with a new team that desperately needed goals, he failed.

In another sense, Agudelo's inability to score can be chalked up in part to other factors. He had to sit for three of the team's four games in July as he rested a sore knee, one that he had had surgery on a few months earlier, leading to the implication that he wasn't at his best for at least some of the games in May and June. In addition, perhaps the most inexplicable move of the season by coach Robin Fraser was to play Agudelo out on the wing, a position he had never played before at a professional level, and he looked lost and had difficulty getting into scoring positions. So, a young player with a sore knee, playing out of position, and on a team that plummeted late in the season - is it any wonder why he had a tough season?

Here were Agudelo's statistics with Chivas USA in 2012:

Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
MLS Regular Season 20 16 1,391 3 3 38 13 1 0
U.S. Open Cup 3 2 231 1 2 8 5 0 0
Total 23 18 1,622 4 5 46 18 1 0

As you can see, Agudelo played well in the team's USOC games, and was probably one of the most important players for the Goats during the Cup run this season. Again, the statistics aren't great overall, but Agudelo was far from the only player who failed to deliver for Chivas in 2012.

And that brings us back to Agudelo's status for 2013. Rumors continue to circulate that he's on his way to Celtic, after a recent training stint with the club, and an interview in which he said generic, banal things. With the rumored interest from the Scottish club and the general chaos that surrounds Chivas USA, I think a lot of American fans just want to see him leave as soon as he can. However, the chances he would see playing time aren't great, and it would be a shame to see Agudelo get a bad transfer and just sit on the bench. Additionally, he's never really shown that he can be a consistent player in MLS. In part, the striker logjam at the New York Red Bulls limited his minutes, and Chivas' struggles meant he couldn't produce. He really needs to prove himself in MLS before making the leap to Europe, in my opinion. I think if he can score at least 10 goals for Chivas, then he'll show he's ready.

Plus, what's in it for Chivas to transfer him now? He's Latino, an exciting player, part of his national team's picture. It is in their best interest to keep him for 2013 on and off the field. If he struggles in 2013, ok, then he isn't ready to move, but he's only 20, and I just don't think his time in MLS is over.


Scoring threat: B
There's been some talk about whether Juan Agudelo is the biggest bust in 2012. We disagree. Like every young striker to wear the stars and stripes, people are eagerly clamoring for Agudelo to score a bajillion goals. But in truth, the 20-year-old entered a destabilizing situation at Chivas USA and managed three goals and three assists despite playing out of position. The biggest question is in attitude. If a transfer to Celtic doesn't happen, is Chivas going to have a George John situation on their hands?

Playmaker: (Passing/Creativity): C+
Agudelo is not afraid to take on defenders and while he's not always successful, it's a welcome sign for team whose offense that spent much 2012 in a coma.

Agudelo led the team in lay-offs, passes back to the person who passed you the ball. That's an important stat for a forward because it is a good indication of hold-up play. Coach Fraser preferred to play Agudelo on the wing apparently thinking Agudelo was not up for the task of being the lone striker. While he did perform better when playing in a 4-4-2, it stands to reason Agudelo has the tools to succeed up top in isolation.

Defense: B
Agudelo's size and speed allowed him to read the passing lanes to deflect balls and intercept passes. He was second among Chivas USA forwards in clearances, often times heading the ball away from danger.

- Matthew Hoffman

GM's Evaluation:

Our little star in the making? Juan Agudelo is this sort of conundrum I don't think anyone has really figured out. No doubt he's a hard worker - he puts in the practice, training, and extra work and I love this about him. I also think that, while he has a lot of confidence, is not completely egotistical about his potential. I just find it very confusing when he fizzles out for his club team yet shines on the national team. This season and his national team performance in November isn't the first time this happened. It was pretty common in his time with New York too. Say what you will about his style of play or skills but I find this to be his biggest knock. He is young and I think he will improve over time. I also think his positioning this season was a bit off - he's not the greatest out wide and would do better with a bit more room to roam around. I've talked about him and his place on this team with Alicia, and we think he will probably stay. This can only be a good thing, on and off the field. If he can become a more consistent producer, I think his profile from the national team will also help this team out.

- Rachna Kapur

What do you think? Leave a comment below!