New England Soccer Today

A Changed Man

Photo credit: New England Revolution

Photo credit: New England Revolution

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Judging by the way he performed during preseason action, it’s as if Juan Agudelo never left. But in many respects, much has changed for the physical forward following his 2013 departure.

After work permit issues precluded him from ever suiting up for Stoke City – the club he was supposed to play for following his departure – Agudelo returned to New England ready to prove himself again, and with a fresh perspective both on and off the pitch.

“I learned a lot from the experience,” Agudelo said. “It was unfortunate that there’s rules out there that won’t let a player play, but again I learned a lot.”

One thing that helped Agudelo see things differently was his stint with Dutch side Utrecht, where Stoke sent him for a six-month loan as it attempted, albeit in vain, to resolve the work permit issues.

“I did play for little bit (of time) in Holland,” Agudelo said. “That gave me a lot of maturity in being across in Europe, it made me (grow) as a person.”

Revolution coach Jay Heaps has also seen a change in Agudelo’s approach. When Agudelo first arrived in Foxborough in 2013, he was already eyeing his next destination with his contract set to expire at the end of the season.

“I think he’s matured,” Heaps said. “But I also think it’s the focus. When we got him (in 2013), we know it was a short window, it was 6-7 months where we were going to have him, and then he already had a pre-contract with Stoke, so his mindset was a little different.

“He was leaving us, but I thought at the same time his focus was great. But he knew at the end of six months, he was going to go somewhere else.”

After Stoke ultimately released him from his contract to pursue other opportunities, he received a handful of lukewarm opportunities in Europe. But ultimately, Agudelo was confronted with a choice: keep searching, or find security. He chose the latter, and last month, he re-joined the Revolution a new, multi-year contract that will run through 2018.

“He’s signed for a longer term deal, and he’s here, and there’s a little different buy in,” Heaps said. “I think also goes hand-in-hand with the maturity with also setting up a family, and that’s important because he can establish some roots.”

Yes, family was one of the biggest reasons why Agudelo turned his attention back to the Revolution. Last month, he became a father, and with a new daughter and fiancee’ relying on him, the picture has changed dramatically for the 22-year-old.

“It’s very different – a lot less sleep,” Agudelo said. “But it’s good, because I know that little girl’s going to motivate me to work hard and do well for her and my family.”

While one teammate says that the players have given Agudelo some good-natured ribbing now that he’s a father, Agudelo says he’s once again comfortable both on and off the field with his teammates.

“I felt like I worked myself into the very fast, understanding a lot of familiar faces,” Agudelo said. “And yeah, it’s exciting to be back, I’m just ready to get things going.”

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