CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – The New England Revolution have turned to an old friend in their quest for attacking reinforcements, re-signing forward Juan Agudelo after a 14-month hiatus.
Agudelo, who racked up seven goals and two assists during a memorable half-season stint with the Revs back in 2013, provides a major boost to New England’s retooled forward corps.
While the 22-year-old thrived as the target man in the Revolution’s three-pronged forward line during his initial stint, Agudelo also impressed as a winger, adding an element of versatility to New England’s attack.
“I like him in a couple different areas, because he’s a soccer player,” said Jay Heaps, referencing Agudelo’s intelligence and adaptability. “He can play back to goal and he’s fast enough to get behind defenses, so he can play the ‘number nine’ very well. He can also play on the wing if we need him.
“We’re excited about the versatility he gives us and the depth he gives us. Quite frankly, he can alter any game tactically because of how he plays in all of those positions.”
Agudelo’s seemingly perfect fit within the Revolution system made him a prime target for New England, who consistently monitored his situation when he made the leap to Europe after the 2013 campaign.
After twice being denied the work permit which would’ve allowed him to join Stoke City in the Premier League – sandwiched around a successful loan stint with Dutch side FC Utrecht – Agudelo became a free agent, carefully weighing his options and planning out his next move.
All the while, New England made it clear that they would very much welcome a return to Foxborough.
“We always felt that there was going to be an opportunity to stay in touch with him,” said Heaps, noting that the Revs were able to maintain his MLS rights by offering him a contract before he left for Stoke. “He’s someone I loved coaching, so when we had the opportunity, we wanted to go for it.”
Heaps and Revolution players praised Agudelo’s work ethic on the field and his natural fit within the locker room, eliminating the element of uncertainty which comes with most new signings. It’s not the same exact group Agudelo played with in 2013, but he’ll join a largely familiar squad of players.
“He’s done a lot for this club and he’s coming back to a very good team,” said Kelyn Rowe, who played alongside Agudelo as a second-year pro. “I think he’s going to be happy to come back into this team.”
While it won’t take much for Agudelo to reintegrate himself into the locker room, he will need a bit of time to find his fitness after a lengthy layoff. He last appeared in a competitive game back in May with FC Utrecht, and although he’s worked to keep himself in shape, Heaps said the Revs will take a patient approach as he works to regain his sharpness.
“It’s going to be a process. I don’t think it’s going to be overnight,” said Heaps, who expects Agudelo to join the Revs’ preseason camp in Casa Grande in the coming days. “We’ve got to get him here, get him working a little bit off the field, then incorporate him back in when he’s fully fit.
“It’s really important for us to be mindful of where Juan is physically, but mentally I know he’s ready to go. I’ve spoken to him a couple times and we’re really excited about getting him here.”