As a teenager, Juan Agudelo was an American prodigy. Now he’s a bit player in Major League Soccer, a journeyman of sorts, and his latest destination is Minnesota United FC.
Agudelo played for David Beckham’s Inter Miami CF in 2020, but it didn’t quite work out there, and the Loons are taking a gamble on a man who has never scored double digits in his 11-year professional career. He made nine starts last year and scored three goals in 14 appearances.
Adrian Heath, who has been dubbed “The Striker Whisperer” after turning Cyle Larin into a star with Orlando City, now has the opportunity to take an out-of-form player with loads of talent and open him up. His task will be to unlock the brilliance that we once saw in the teenage boots of Agudelo, who signed a one-year contract on March 2nd, with a club option for an additional year.
“The crazy thing about Juan [Agudelo] is, you forget he’s just 28. He seems to have been around for years, and I go back to Juan, all the way back to the beginning of Orlando,” Heath said in a club statement. Agudelo trained with Orlando City in 2013 when he was working towards a move to England with Stoke City.
Agudelo joins Foster Langsdorf as the Loons’ second striker on the roster going into next year. As preseason begins and players are reporting to their clubs, MNUFC must get Agudelo involved as soon as possible. Getting his confidence up, getting chemistry with the team, and allowing himself to get comfortable in the Twin Cities is going to be crucial.
Why? Because Agudelo is probably your starting striker come opening day.
The Loons have been linked to signing a DP-level striker up top — French striker Adrien Hunou‘s name has been thrown around — but multiple reports state that if such a move were to happen, it would be in the summer transfer window. Until then, Agudelo is leading the line with Langsdorf as the No. 2.
Agudelo only has nine goals in the regular season over the past three years. His last high-scoring season, such as it was, came in 2017 when he tallied eight goals for the New England Revolution. Those stats are simply not good enough for a team like Minnesota with MLS Cup and MLS Supporter’s Shield aspirations. If the plan is to wait until summer to add a clinical DP-level striker, the Agudelo signing makes sense, but there also has to a be a conversation of where the goals will come from.
Emanuel Reynoso is a playmaker, someone who makes things happen out of nothing. A genius on and off the ball. But he’s not known for his goal-scoring capabilities. Going into a season without Kevin Molino, you have to ask where the goals are going to come from. The immediate thought has to be Robin Lod, who came onto the scene as a right-winger and an inverted No. 9 last season. Adding Agudelo could not only bring out the best in Reynoso, who will finally have a proper striker ahead of him, but it could also allow Lod to focus on being a winger. Lod has the ability to build on his performance in 2020, where he had seven goals and five assists.
Although Agudelo is not necessarily a flashy, big-money signing, his presence alone could bring out the best of those around him.
Agudelo and Langsdorf are not technically the only options up top. MNUFC announced a new arrival via Homegrown Status a day after Agudelo was annonced: Patrick Weah.
The Loons announced their second-ever Homegrown Player in Weah (St. Paul’s Fred Emmings was the first). Weah, who is related to USMNT legend George and current Lille player Tim, just finished his freshman season at Saint Louis University. There is a lot of hype around Weah strictly due to his last name, but the hype is actually warranted. He was a 2017 state champion with Wayzata High School, the 2017 state player of the year, and was the Loons Academy’s leading scorer.
“He’s got loads of raw, natural talent. We have to harness that over the next few years and then try and teach him the sort of nuances of the game because of all the physicality in the game. And the basics, he’s got in abundance. We’re delighted he’s decided to join us. It’s the start of a lot of hard work for him, but we feel as though he’s got a lot of raw attributes to make the next step,” Heath said in a statement on the club website.
Although it’s a long shot, if there is one position that would be up for grabs in the starting XI, it would be striker. Weah doesn’t have a senior minute under his belt, but if this league has taught us anything, it’s that clubs who play their kids typically excel.
Agudelo will be pushed and somehow, some way, United will find their striker.