2:32 pm May. 18, 2012
New York's trade of Juan Agudelo looks like a risky proposition.
Agudelo is a tremendously talented forward who has has logged 15 appearances with the U.S. National Team by the age of 19. He is the finest player the team has ever developed, and is a New Jersey native beloved by the fans.
The Red Bulls dealt Agudelo to Chivas USA for left back Heath Pearce, a substantial amount of allocation money (salary funds the league allows to be used over and above the salary cap) and a large cut of any transfer fee Chivas USA ultimately gets if they sell Agudelo to a big European club.
It's that last part that's the real tell for this deal. If Agudelo doesn't pan out, New York win on this deal. But if he does ... they win on the deal.
Think about it this way: in nearly every other sport, when a promising young rookie is traded for an established veteran, the nightmare scenario for the team dealing the rookie is for that youngster to become a star, tormenting his former team for years to come. Agudelo certainly possesses both the skills and the drive to reach that level, and pushed for a trade from New York, where he was languishing on the bench, to continue his development.
But if Agudelo does that for Chivas USA, European teams will be lining up to recruit him. Like it or not, M.L.S. is still a selling league. The player Agudelo is frequently compared to, Jozy Altidore, debuted for New York in August 2006. By June 2008, he was sold to Spanish side Villareal.
So Agudelo isn't likely to perform at an elite level for Chivas USA for years and years. If he develops as hoped, he'll be with Chivas USA, and then on satellite dishes everywhere in high-level European competition.
Meanwhile, the Red Bulls are built to win now, and ever more so with the addition of Pearce. If the Red Bulls have a weakness to be exposed in important matches, it is the propensity for errors from current starting left back Roy Miller. But Miller's gaffes were tolerated because he could provide some offensive support pushing forward. Pearce, a frequent contributor to the national team, provides that without the regular mistakes; Ives Galarcep calls him "arguably the best left back in M.L.S."
New York's defense suddenly looks both imposing and deep. Injuries pushed players like Connor Lade, Tyler Ruthven and Brandon Barklage into starting duties. Lade and Ruthven proved they can give New York minutes as needed, and Barklage has played so well that he'll likely hold down the starting right back position, even when New York is at full strength.
Better still, Wilman Conde is healthy enough to play this weekend against Montreal. The center back will line up next to Pearce, in all likelihood, and few M.L.S. squads can boast of a better combination on the left side.
In the meantime, that allocation money can be used during the summer transfer window, now just a month away, to give New York a chance to add an attacking midfielder, and even a backup forward for Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper who will be comfortable in a supporting role.
Ironically, the Agudelo deal's biggest threat to New York could be in the very short term. Chivas USA travels to New York next Wednesday, and Agudelo figures to start with revenge on his mind.
Whatever happens, it's important to remember that he was never going to be in M.L.S. for all that long anyway.