New England Soccer Today

A Happy Homecoming

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Last week, the Revolution welcomed back Juan Agudelo 14 months after the U.S. international departed for the EPL. But the effort to bring him back actually started not long after he left.

In a conference call with the media on Tuesday, Revolution coach Jay Heaps spoke about the circumstances that eventually led the 22-year-old striker to the club he helped steer to its first postseason berth in four years back in 2013.

“We always had him on our radar,” Heaps said. “We made another attempt last spring to get him, but Juan had such great opportunities and interest from other parts of the world. But we stayed in touch.”

Agudelo’s attempts to secure a deal in Europe are well-documented. After initially signing with Stoke City following the 2013 MLS season, his work permit application was denied. Shortly thereafter, he was loaned to Dutch side Utrecht, where he scored three goals in 14.

Though both Stoke and Agudelo hoped there could be another way for him to obtain his work permit, the club eventually threw its arms up after his appeal was denied. Less than six months after he was set to join the squad, he was a free agent.

“It’s unfortunate that a club made a major effort to get a player they wanted badly,” Agudelo said, “and that there are rules that exist to prevent that from happening.”

Agudelo returned to the U.S. to train with upcoming expansion side Orlando City SC during the summer. Meanwhile, he and his agent continued to work the phones, hoping to land the deal that would send him back across the Atlantic for the foreseeable future.

That opportunity – or at least the right one – never came to fruition. Suddenly faced with the daunting fact that a suitable deal may not materialize anytime soon, Agudelo started to seriously contemplate a return to New England.

But his playing future wasn’t the only concern on his mind. With a fiancee’ and a baby on the way, there much more to take into consideration than there was 14 months ago.

“It was an important family decision,” Agudelo said. “If I was single, I wouldn’t have worried about any other things, I would have pushed myself in Europe any way that I could.”

In December, Agudelo entered into talks with the Revolution about a new contract. And no one was happier about it than Heaps.

“I really liked Juan when he was here,” Heaps said. “I really like him as a person, and so, we waited to see how his situation was going to play out, and once we started to have more dialogue, I think Juan realized there was a really good opportunity here not only to come back, but to get playing time with good players around him.”

Heaps also saw a potential return as a means to another end, too. With Agudelo’s profile slowly slipping from U.S. Men’s National Team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, the chance for the 22-year-old striker to get consistent minutes was something that the Revolution could all but guarantee him.

“He’s a player that, for me, when he is playing at his best, and when he’s playing well, he should be in the National Team camp,” Heaps said. “He should be looked at as a forward that Jurgen’s looking at because of the intangibles that he brings on and off the field.”

Agudelo referenced a return to the National Team, which he’s only appeared in three matches for since 2012, as a goal of his now that he’s back in MLS. But that’s not the only objective on his mind, especially after watching the Revolution come out of MLS Cup empty-handed last December.

“(The Revolution) are a team that had gotten so far last year, and just came up a tiny bit short,” Agudelo said. “I’m just hoping that I can help the team in any way that I can to finish it off.”

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