After 14 months of trying to secure a team in Europe, Juan Agudelo has returned to the New England Revolution. More importantly, however, he’s returned to playing soccer.
"That’s my main happiness," Agudelo said of the sport via a conference call on Tuesday afternoon. "I’m really excited to be really happy again
Agudelo left New England at the conclusion of the 2013 season, hoping to join Stoke City of the English Premier League. Despite signing a pre-contract with the club, he was denied a U.K. work permit, which led to a loan deal with FC Utrecht of the Eredivisie.
In the Netherlands, Agudelo scored three goals in 14 appearances. A fine haul for a newcomer, but it wasn’t enough to earn the work permit that Stoke re-applied for in May 2014. Soon after the denial, Agudelo became a free agent as the two sides mutually agreed to terminate the contract.
The experience was a difficult one for Agudelo, who has long dreamed of playing in Europe.
"It’s really unfortunate that rules exist to prevent a club from signing the player they want," Agudelo said. "But everyone moves forward."
For Agudelo, forward eventually meant re-joining the Revolution. The two parties remained in contact during Agudelo’s European adventure, leaving the door open for a return. The Revs made overtures to the player last spring but it wasn’t until January 30, 2015 that Agudelo put pen to paper, a move partially influenced by his personal life.
"It was an important family decision," remarked Agudelo, who is expecting a child with his fiancée. "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."
Returning to MLS isn’t a step back for Agudelo as some of his best soccer was played while in New England. Lining up alongside attackers like Lee Nguyen, Diego Fagundez and Kelyn Rowe, Agudelo collected seven goals and one assist in 14 appearances.
There’s reason to believe that Agudelo’s second stint in New England will be just as successful as his first. The team has maintained many of the players from the 2013 season while adding important contributors like Jermaine Jones and Teal Bunbury. Meanwhile Jay Heaps, who Agudelo called the best coach in MLS, remains in charge.
With a contract signed, Agudelo is eager to get going.
"I’m just looking forward to coming to New England and doing what I can to get back into that rhythm that I had when I left," Agudelo said.
There is still one major decision left to make, however. Bunbury now wears the same number ten that Agudelo donned in 2013. While Agudelo joked that a game of rock-paper-scissors might be in order, there could be another solution.
"I’m glad to know that 17 is open, so we'll see," Agudelo said while pondering his jersey number.