Archive for August, 2013

USA 4 – Bosnia 3: Quick & Dirty Tactical Review

Golden Domes: Exemplary on the day.

Golden Domes: Exemplary on the day.

The US makes two costly errors in the first half, but pushed the tempo and the game in the second to overrun the home side and tilt the scoreline. 4-3 for the visitors and a record 12th win in a row by the Red, White & Blue.

The States rolled out in what has become Jurgen Klinsmann’s preferred formation, a 4-2-3-1 pushing Eddie Johnson high at times on the left–call it a “screen door”or “swing midfielder/forward” role–and shading Mix Diskerud to that side in the CAM-ish role.

You can’t help but think back to the US-Slovenia World Cup game when bearing witness to the States’ efforts in Sarajevo on Wednesday. Like their neighbors, Bosnia punished two early individual mistakes–an Eddie Johnson brain cramp central clearance attempt and Fabian Johnson’s failure to close down wide service–to take a 2-0 lead into halftime. (Yes, Ibišević may have been offsides but that cross was wide open.)

Like their neighbors, Bosnia succumbed to a seemingly indefatigable US team who pushed the tempo and the game vertically in the second half.

The first 45′ can best be described as “careful” with both teams prodding for the best spot to launch an attack.

The US would push up the left flank, but attacks would often die at the feet of  Eddie Johnson through poor decision making or Mix Diskerud, was just not quick enough to work centrally against the quality home side.

Bosnia, for their part, were well schooled. They took careful chances to Pjanic on the right flank early, but when they realized the US had numbers there, attempted to work on Brad Evans on the right or go over the top to their talented forward pairing of Dzeko and Ibišević.

With the States down two after the break, they countered by sacrificing Diskerud for Edgar Castillo and reconfiguring the weak left flank by pushing Fabian Johnson up to a midfield role.

This was the most material change in the match.

The key here was the change in formation; Klinsmann’s side came out almost in a 4-2-4 to start the second half and started rocketing balls up the flanks for the onrushing feet of Fabian Johnson and Ale Bedoya. This appeared more to just up the tempo early as the forays weren’t ultimately successful. (After about 15 minutes or so, the positioning regressed to a traditional 4-4-2.)

The strategy worked though as Bosnia started getting stretched and the pace of the game picked up, leaving the midfield of the home side to play catch-up. They Bosnians didn’t handle the speed well and suddenly acres of space was available in the middle. Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley, more so, then surgically opened up the Dragons.

Bradley found Jozy Altidore–perhaps the forward’s best game yet under Klinsmann?–over the top on a simply gorgeous Aaron Brooks-like deep ball and then Fab Johnson found Altidore on the floor and the US equalized. 2-2 with a quality strike from Jozy.

The pace continued throughout the rest of the half,; the game becoming looser, more frantic and “friendly-like” as the time waned.

This would play right into the Yanks’ historical soccer roots.

The US vaulted attacks forward and Bosnia capitulated. A terrific Altidore free kick gave the States the lead and another counter produced an inch-perfect pass to Altidore who was making a clinical post run. Bosnia found one more through the head of Dzeko who was very good on the day and that’s how the scoreline closed in Sarajevo.

Let’s break it down. What are the key takeaways.

♦  Hunting in Packs

US "swarm defense" mentality saw as many as six players--usually five--around the Bosnian fullbacks in possession--especially on the US left flank.

US “swarm defense” mentality saw as many as six players–usually five–around the Bosnian fullbacks in possession–especially on the US left flank.

Bičakčić was a no so tidy 22-of-35 in possession for the home side.

Bičakčić was a no so tidy 22-of-35 passing for the home side.

Save sub-par performances by Johnson and Johnson on the left in defense, the US was extremely solid defensively as a team, executing a game plan of keeping the ball off their right flank where Lulic and Salihamovic roamed in efforts to find Dzeko. This was the side–with Brad Evans in rearguard–that was to be an attacking point for the Dragons.

Diskerud pushed high above Bradley and Jones. He (Diskerud) was primarily tasked–as was Jozy Altidore–in directing traffic down the US’s left flank where Michael Bradley could run interference. It was an excellent positional game from the Roma midfielder who was nearly flawless in his positioning on the day.

Diskerud as well displayed a more stellar and responsible defensive effort than previously seen from the Norwegian man in the Gold Cup.

With the US rallying as many as six around the ball when Bosnia’s fullbacks were in possession, the pack mentality led to two positives and one negative for the States.

The two positives? One, Miralem Pjanic was forced to drop deep in the midfield to pick up the ball, thus negating his influence in-between the midfield and defensive lines and two, Bosnia was forced to play over the top balls to Lulic and Salihamovic on the left flank where the US was able to recover and keep its defensive integrity.

Excellent team defense from the States.

The negative was Bosnia countered by trying to gap the US centerback defenders and Tim Howard with Dzeko and Ibišević making runs along the backline. The Dragons added central runs from the off-flank through Lulic and Misimovic as well which at first flummoxed the US, but under the organization of Bradley was dealt with. It’s nice to have a Michael Bradley on your team, isn’t it?

It was individual errors not team defense that was to blame for Klinsmann’s side conceding in the first half.

Yeah he scored three, but it's not often that Jozy Altidore goes 28 of 30 passing on the evening....most in the attacking half.

Yeah he scored three, but it’s not often that Jozy Altidore goes 28 of 30 passing on the evening….most in the attacking half.

♦ An Altidorean Impact

There is no mistaking Altidore’s impact on this game.

From the beginning whistle, Altidore set up shop right on the Bosnian backline, wearing them down like a boxer punching to the solar plexus. Altidore was given space around him and drew two critical fouls in the first half, one when he got loose on a turn and Diskerud headed to him on the break. Spahic was forced to tug the shoulder. As the half progressed, Altidore drifted wider as the endurance of players ebbed and found space on the sidelines, dragging either a centerback or fullback with him.

The US found Jozy and immediately Bosnia paid respects by sending an extra defender to help.

The second half was more remarkable for the now-Sunderland man. The US thrust their midfielders high in a 4-2-4 of sorts and it in turn opened the midfield.

With Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones threading passes forward, Altidore’s presence presented some tough in-game decision making from the Spahic and the Bosnian backline. Collapse on Altidore and have Eddie Johnson and the US wide midfielder make runs for layoffs and through balls or play Altidore man-up and risk being worked.

*NOT PICTURED: Fabian Johnson out of picture on the left // The US pushed it's wide midfielders high to create tempo in the second half. Here you see Eddie Johnson, Jozy Altidore and Ale Bedoya--wide right--all challenging the Bosnian backline.

*NOT PICTURED: Fabian Johnson out of picture on the left // The US pushed it’s wide midfielders high to create tempo in the second half. Here you see Eddie Johnson, Jozy Altidore and Ale Bedoya–wide right–all challenging the Bosnian backline.

The Dragons choose the latter and Altidore displayed a wide array of skills in disrupting the Dragon backline. Checking runs, off-shoulder runs. Altidore was a menace, his speed and size the difference as the Bosnian backline could not physically move him off the ball. He was active and looking for space and he buried his chances. He played Dzeko even up or better on the day.

♦ The Pacemakers.

US fans and media groaned in February of this year. Less so because of defensive miscues, more because the US couldn’t seem to find the back of the net. The US had improved their defense drastically under Klinsmann, but they just couldn’t score.

For years, the States had been a countering team, able to rip up turf vertically and threaten even the best (US 2 – Spain 0). If the first two years of Klinsmann had proved anything, it’s that the US had difficulty in the half court set if you will, without the space of the counter, the attack was neutered.

The tweak for the US came against Belgium and has been realized throughout the rest of the summer.

The US would push the pace in spurts, hoping to keep the back door closed at the same time to create offensive chances.

That happened in the second half for the States in Sarajevo who were forced to take the game to the Dragons. As the Altidore  section alluded to above, the midfield had space and Bosnia succumbed–like Slovenia–to the tempo-setting of two midfielders–Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones–who could outrun and outdefend their counterparts.

Bosnia’s central midfield could not get on the ball.

Faced with pressure, the home side when in possession in the back had two choices: struggle to work the ball through a more-pressing defense with their midfield not yet in position or punt the ball forward.

Most teams–as the Dragons did–will choose to punt for safety. The US gathered and threw counters the other way. Their historic DNA returned and Bosnia was not the equal today.

Space issues solved, US attack ignited in the very manner the US scored through the bulk of the 2000’s.

♦ Square Passes:

» Subpar performances for Fabian Johnson–whose clearly not ready to usurp DaMarcus Beasley defensively just yet–and Eddie Johnson on the left flank. More so, maybe from Johnson who was negligent in the defensive third with the marble leading to the first goal and who was consistently and taking poor and superfluous touches on the ball. It is clear EJ’s game speed is stuck on CONCACAF.

» Brad Evans has put himself in contention for Brazil. What he brings that Parkhurst doesn’t is the ability–however slight–to move the ball in possession. Parkhurst is an excellent receive and distribute guy, but if the best option is to take on his man, that’s a losing battle for him nearly every time. Evans showed some lackluster crosses on the evening, but possessed some decent handles in creating space for himself on the right.

Screen Shot 2013-08-14 at 12.55.41 PM

Dzeko & friends challenged the US backline all night. It was more difficult in the second half as the US pushed the tempo and players up the field.

» It is clear–to this writer–that Geoff Cameron and John Brooks should be the CB pairing. Cameron if only because Besler and Brooks play the same position. The pair had some communication errors and Cameron–who was challenged more–occasionally lost his mark, but Bosnia in Sarajevo for the inaugural runout of this centerback pairing is a big ask. Besler will compete for time, but Gonzalez and Goodson slink a little down the depth chart here.

» Excellent positional awareness and tracking from Ale Bedoya. He serves the same job as Graham Zusi does or James Milner for England.

Run. And run. And run interference to protect the right flank. Bedoya showed some astute central runs and had some nice service in the box, including a hellacious pass in the opening stanza that a one-touch from Eddie Johnson should’ve put in the back of the net.

» Set (Fall To) Pieces: The US’s set piece defense game has been abysmal and Wednesday was no different. It is a weapon, currently, for opponents to use against the States.

♦ States Keys To The Match: Review

» KEY: The midfield pairing of Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley must boss and dictate the game.

GRADE: A-

Yes, the States midfield bossed the game. Even in the first half both Jones and Bradley were able to get a fair amount of incising interior passes going. In the second half, well that goes without saying.

» Find Pjanić as soon as the ball turns, but manage the deep service of Misimovic.

GRADE: A-

Yes, take a look around the 25th to 35th minute or so, Pjanić is seen frequently dropping deep into almost a sweeper-type role to get some touches on the ball.

» Push left per usual and hit at the newbie Bičakčić.

GRADE: B-

The US had fairly little trouble on the left flank save some poor fundamental defending from Fabian Johnson and a poor decision by Eddie Johnson. Up top though, Eddie Johnson was awful. He held the ball, was late on runs which killed attacks and took too many touches. The US still survived though as they limited the play through Bičakčić

» Contain Eden Džeko, but also manage the  forward runners off him.

GRADE: C+

The US managed good team defense and both Cameron and Brooks had moments where they won 1v1 duels, but there was much to worry about. Cameron was soundly beaten in the air for two goals. Both defenders were lax tracking the “second play” on the first goal and the pair really had to play very close together to avoid getting gapped. Much to like, much to improve though.

US vs. Bosnia: Live Commentary

Fab J and Dzeko ... once club brothers .. square off today.

Fab J and Dzeko … once club brothers .. square off today.

Starting line-ups from Sarajevo shortly.

Have a few minutes to kill? Two must-reads:

» America’s Most Important Soccer Player Conquers the Old World.

» And the TSG preview of course! USA v. Bosnia: Welcome to Sarajevo

TSG’s USA v. Bosnia Preview: Welcome To Sarajevo

Will this be the match-up to watch Wednesday?

Will this be the match-up to watch Wednesday?

The United States A- team is in Sarajevo today as they prepare for tomorrow’s encounter with the Dragons of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

This will be the US’s first action since its successful Gold Cup run last month, but rather than trying to keep building the momentum of the Costa Rican snowball here in the Balkans, this US camp is really more about getting under the hood on a few players, specifically two dual nationals who may contribute as early as September to the US qualifying engine: Aron Jóhannsson and John Brooks.

The former–Jóhannsson–caused a ruckus a few weeks ago when he melted the hearts of Americans by decoupling from his “native” Iceland and declaring himself eligible for the States.

Jóhannsson who is Jozy Altidore’s successor at Eredivisie outfit AZ Alkmaar, filed his one-time switch and is hoping to give the US another option in attack in tandem with either Altidore or Clint Dempsey going forward in qualifying.

The latter–Brooks—has US fans frothing something awesome–for most, though, sight unseen. A rundown of his data is enough to pique even the casual fan’s interest: 6’4”, centerback, 20-years-old, southpaw, handling like a top-of-the line Corvette, scoring touch. It’s like someone ran Oguchi Onyewu through a Bayern Munich car wash a few times.

Beyond the awaited debuts of the dual nationals, the US will take on a Bosnian side that is brimming with talent. Most of the heavies are rallying for this one, including: Manchester City’s Edin Džeko, Stuttgart’s Vedad Ibišević, Roma’s Miralem Pjanić and Leverkusen’s Emir Spahić. While the game is a friendly, the US nevertheless  sit 19th in the FIFA rankings while Bosnia sit in 13th. So a win for either side–extrapolating broadly–could affect group placement at Brazil 2014.

The US will need to rely on the strength of their midfield fulcrum–Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley–who will have to do yoeman’s work to marshall the integration of a number of new faces and remain compact against a team that can punish them on their home court.

Without further Freddy Adu, we get to the mini-preview. It goes this time:

About the Opponent: Bosnia & Herzegovina

States’ Keys To the Match

TSG: What We’re Looking For

11 At The Whistle

Bosnia devalues Greece’s World Cup bid dropping a  3-1 in a World Cup qualifying (May 2013)

About The Opponent: Bosnia-Herzegovina

Bosnia & Herzegovina is a tricky Euro side and one that is on the brink of qualifying for their first major tournament, Brazil 2014.

B&H (we’ll use this for short, no disrespect) can be considered similar to many Eastern European sides–good discipline, attractive football at times, difficulty at time augmenting their plan in-game.

However, there is also a bit of a Belgium-feel to the team. They are a team of superstars–many of whom have been playing together through the trials of Portugal (losses in 2010 World Cup qualifying and Euro 2012 qualifying still stinging from the buzzing Ronaldo) and many who developed outside of the country’s borders.

Safet Sušić in his playing days...

Safet Sušić in his playing days…

For this match, veteran coach Safet Sušić, the steward since 2009, has called in most of his veterans. Each match counts to gain reps and test new things as the margin to qualify in Europe is razor thin.

The Dragons will roll out in a formation that looks very similar to the US thus presenting this as a war of attrition. B&H will oscillate between a 4-2-3-1 and a 4-4-2 depending on personnel.

Sound familiar?

For the Dragons, Geoff Cameron’s Stoke City mate Asmir Begović will man the sticks. He’s the undisputed first stringer and, at 26, is teetering at the prime of his career.

The centerback pairing may be Leverkusen mainstay and B&H captain Emir Spahić (good luck getting through him) with Gent’s Ervin Zukanović as the complement.

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Bicakcic’s chance?

At the corners, first choice rightback Freiburg’s Mensur Mujdža, sustained an injury over the weekend and withdrew from the camp. Mujdža is a fan favorite–a player who excels in 1v1 defense and is adept at getting forward when called upon. His loss should be the States’ gain on that flank.

The deputy may be Ermin Bičakčić. Bičakčić, a German dual national, is the big newcomer in this camp–no caps notched on his belt–and the expectation is for him to get the runout and see if he can prove worthy for first team time at 23. A centerback by trade, with Mujdza out,  Bičakčić should slide to rightback. (Note: Bičakčić still needs to file his one-time switch, but is expected to play.)

Like the US, B&H will push higher on the left as their choice of leftbacks, Hoffenheim’s Sejad Salihović or Lazio’s Senad Lulić are both club midfielders, wingbacks at best. Lulić in fact has played mostly at left wing until recently for Sušić and will likely aid in the attack so Salihović gets the nod.

The central midfield will be hubbed by Elvir Rahimić–who will drop deep, almost sweeper deep in a Kyle Beckerman-esque role. The towering 37-year-old counts over 230 games played at Russian CSKA Moscow on his resume. (Note: It’s toss-up whether Rahimić starts or his battery mate when in a 4-2-3-1, Bochum’s Adnan Zahirović, is on the team sheet first.)

Zvjezdan Misimović will play ahead of him–sort of like Bradley when Cameron is inserted for the Yanks–with Lulić likely playing slightly left.

And as for Lulic here’s what a Lazio follower, Ryan Hall, had to say about the player nicknamed “The Train” in Serie A, “Lulić is a beast! My .02: Kind of a poor man’s Gareth Bale.” Hyperbole? You be the judge.

At RM in the #7 role is Michael Bradley’s Roma teammate (for now), Miralem Pjanić who is rumored to be headed to Spurs. Pjanić though is a very deliberate player who would appear to mesh with Serie A’s more technical and admittedly slower game tempo. If Pjanić gets loose between the lines against the States, a nouveau CB pairing for the States will find themselves staring a playmaker with two highly capable options ahead of him that again could cause some “Belgium-like” problems for the States.

A possible B&H deployment Wednesday.

A possible B&H deployment Wednesday.

The more well known of Pjanic’s options is Man City’s mercurial striker Edin Džeko. Džeko is adored by the home crowd and, like his efforts at City, when he’s motivated the whole team falls in synch behind him. Džeko is big, strong, technical and liable to go Luis Fabiano-versus-Jay-DeMerit on either of the Yanks’ centerbacks.

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Clintonomics 101: What Is MLS Overcompensating For?

How much did it cost again to get him in that gown?

How much did it cost again to get him in that gown?

Steve Fenn looks into Clintonomics 101

Clint Dempsey’s move to Seattle has been controversial.

Not strong enough? Fisticuffolous?

And the money involved has been no small part of grousing in Portland and elsewhere.

Fortunately, the MLS Players Union released their update to MLS salaries last week, which allows examination into the Dempsey deal within context of MLS as a whole.

The Seattle Sounders are paying Dempsey $5,038,566.50 this year.

Add those figures to the salary list released by the MLS Players Union in May and you’ll see that Deuce is earning 5.31% of the league’s $94.86mm total guaranteed wages. The top 1% of MLS salaries, Dempsey, Robbie Keane, Tim Cahill, Thierry Henry, and Landon Donovan (0.9% of the 568 players listed) combine for $19.85mm, which is 20.9% of that league salary total.

That closely mirrors the top 1% of Americans holding 19% of the nation’s wealth, but few want to get smacked in the face by reality amidst the escapism of professional sports. As it stands, it is easy to dwell on the fact that the 55 players pulling in the league minimum of $35,125 make only 0.7% of Dempsey’s wages.

Below is a visualization of every MLS player’s base salary, with a smaller graph approximating clubs’ salary cap usage by position.

..

..

{MLS guaranteed salaried per August 1st MLSPU release. The Interactive version <click here> includes breakdowns of every player, included DP, Generation Adidas, or Homegrown status, and an estimation of retention funds.}

Clearly, Dempsey is not just the highest paid player in the league this year, but only the Galaxy, the Red Bulls, and the Impact are paying more for their entire rosters.

Salary disparity has long been a concern in MLS, but it has to be noted that there has been enormous progress since Beckham’s arrival in 2007.

—> TSG’s Official USA v. Bosnia-Herzegovina Tactical Preview: Welcome to Sarajevo <—

At that time 59 MLS players were earning a league minimum $12,900, which was 0.2% of Goldenball’s $6.5mm salary (15.4% of total MLS wages, which sat much lower at $42.2mm at the time). Say what you will about $35,125 but a person at least has a chance of living off of that much money, while those making less than $13k were probably living a lifestyle very similar to the one that Clint Irwin described recently in his account of rising up through the US lower divisions on his way to starting in goal for Colorado on the MLS minimum.

Expect the MLS Players Union to use the current rich-poor gap to push for changes when the new collective bargaining agreement is negotiated 17-20 months from now. Like the first post-Beckham CBA negotiation, MLSPU will certainly want to see significant boosts to both the minimum salary and the salary cap.

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USMNT: Klinsmann Emails 23 For Bosnia Friendly

The US roster to face Pjanic, Dzeko & company…

"Let em play!"

“Let em play!”

GOALKEEPERS (3): Cody Cropper (Southampton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), Tim Howard (Everton)

DEFENDERS (7): John Anthony Brooks (Hertha Berlin), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City), Edgar Castillo (Club Tijuana), Brad Evans (Seattle Sounders FC), Michael Orozco Fiscal (Puebla), Michael Parkhurst (Augsburg), Tim Ream (Bolton Wanderers)

MIDFIELDERS (8): Alejandro Bedoya (Nantes), Michael Bradley (Roma), Joe Corona (Club Tijuana), Mix Diskerud (Rosenborg), Fabian Johnson (Hoffenheim), Jermaine Jones (Schalke), Sacha Kljestan (Anderlecht), Danny Williams (Reading)

FORWARDS (5): Jozy Altidore (Sunderland), Terrence Boyd (Rapid Vienna), Eddie Johnson (Seattle Sounders FC), Aron Johannsson (AZ Alkmaar), Bobby Wood (1860 Munich)

The skinny:

» Big calls for The Fiscal, Brad Evans and Joe Corona … seeing what they can do against much different competition than their used to.

» Where will Tim Ream be used? Will Tim Ream be used? Bolton are using him in the midfield and at centerback. If Klinsmann tries him at the CDM role, it may signal that he’s going to keep using Geoff Cameron in the “tweener” role as they have similar skillsets.

Dempsey: The African-Americanesque Reflection

Dempsey, wild heights for Americans and Cottager faithful.

Dempsey, wild heights for Americans and Cottager faithful.

This terrific piece by Miriti Murungi. Mirungi’s day job is allegedly to make people laugh their way through Arsenal games on Twitter.

It’s no secret that so many incidents that happen to individuals in the African-American community are often magnified and reflected as emblematic of blackness. Specific criminal acts are always tied into half-assed, out-of-context statistical analyses of crime in the black community. Educational struggles often reflexively become an indictment of “broken” black homes and families. For so long, rap music, despite other art forms also having sub-genres glorifying violence, misogyny, drugs, and material acquisitions, has been inextricably tied to irresponsibility and destructiveness endemic in “black culture.” Within this web of reflexive, lazy association, it’s hard to find the time and space to be an individual without black being attached as the primary identifier associated with behavior.

And a conundrum awaits those fortunate enough to escape the nebulous, systemic, failure narrative attributed to blackness. “Making it” suddenly makes you a de facto spokesperson for “your people,” an example of how the “good ones” behave. And that’s true whether you want the job or not.

As it turns out, regardless of your standing in life, so often, blackness still trumps humanness; it becomes inescapable, even when you turn off the lights and are left with a subconscious pre-programmed with skeptical, undercutting voices from outside that seem to have been played on heavy rotation on every device capable of making noise, as far back as the mind remembers.

This reality frequently sparks reactions that, by now, are all too familiar to those with even a remedial understanding of the burden of blackness in America:

“Why does what I do have to reflect on all my people?”

“Why does what they do automatically implicate me?”

“Why does everything I do have to involve a discussion about the greater good?”

“Why can’t I be an individual?

“Why do I …”

“Why can’t you …”

“Why?”

These themes, which are a very real part of African-American life, echoed in my head, hitting a series of familiar notes, as I was monitoring Clint Dempsey’s return to Major League Soccer.

Yes, I know. My brain making the connection was initially uncomfortable for me, too. But bear with me for a moment.

SpaceDeuce.

SpaceDeuce.

Without question, Dempsey’s acquisition by the Seattle Sounders is the highest-profile acquisition (or re-acquisition) of an American in MLS history. The deal, reported to be approximately $32 million over four years, which doesn’t include an MLS-record breaking $9 million transfer fee to Tottenham, makes that point crystal clear, even if you want to adjust for inflation … twice. Dempsey has made it in America. And now, every conversation that follows him inevitably involves a comment, if not a full-fledged debate, about the merits of his decision. It’s a conversation that American soccer fans know too well.

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Juan Agudelo Stoked On The Prem: Headed To The Potters

Agudelo potting around in 2014....

Agudelo potting around in 2014….

Juan Agudelo–late of the New England Revs, Chivas USA and Red Bull New York–is skipping the pond and meeting up with the boys as he has signed a pre-contract with Stoke City in England’s Premiership.

A source close to the negotiations told TSG that the deal is officially closed. The 20-year-old Agudelo is under contract with MLS through the end of the year. A pre-contract can be signed by MLS players whose contracts expire within 6 months of the date of to-be-signed one.

Agudelo, long considered a top-5 USMNT prospect by TSG, will need to compete against strikers Kenwynne Jones & Peter Crouch among others for playing time. Agudelo has proved to have the skill in MLS, but now just needs the focus.

Depending on a range of factors, it’s possible a deal could be reached between MLS and Stoke City to allow Agudelo go early which probably benefits both sides.

Agudelo joins Brek Shea, Geoff Cameron and Mo Edu as other Yanks in the Potters’ locker room.

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