It was a cry from the supporters to Bob Bradley to put in young players and start to bleed them in for the 2014 World Cup cycle. We’ve heard it so many times on message boards and comments on national team stories here on MLS Talk. The one problem that everyone thought the USA needed to fix is at striker.
While Charlie Davies continues to get his sharpness back with his club team FC Sochaux in France’s Ligue Un, there is a new bright star that has started to shine and he plays his club ball in Major League Soccer with the New York Red Bulls. Seventeen year old Juan Agudelo from Barnagat, NJ and a graduate of the New York Red Bulls Academy scored his first goal as a member of the USA National Team.
In the 85th Minute it was a fantastic poke with plenty of power behind it. A good pass started by Agudelo to Mikkel Diskerud attacking the South African area. All of a sudden Diskerud was surrounded by three defenders and kept his composure on the ball. Somehow he made a strong pass to Agudelo who got into position and hit a hard shot off the top of his right foot which nailed the bottom of the crossbar, bounced over the goal line and inside the top of the net.
It was a fantastic debut for Agudelo coming off the bench in the sixty-first minute for Robbie Rogers; you saw the talent and the poise from this young man on the field. But to be honest it all started for him before the 2010 MLS Season started with his club side deciding whether to sign him or lose him to a Colombian club side. Thankfully the decision was the right one by the Red Bulls.
All season long he trained and learned from veteran players like Juan Pablo Angel, summer transfer window signing Thierry Henry and other players. He gained valuable information from them and the coaching staff as well. Let’s not forget that he is also a member of the US u-20 national team coached by Thomas Rongen and when his stock started to rise on the youth national team level that both Hans Backe of the New York Red Bulls and Bob Bradley began to really take notice.
During the middle of the season I attended Red Bulls training at Montclair State University and along with the media, had a interview session with Backe and saw major improvement coming from Agudelo after he returned from the u-20’s winning the Milk Cup tournament. Backe said he felt confident now that he could get him some minutes during the second half of the MLS season.
His MLS debut came off the bench very late in the second half during a scoreless draw against Real Salt Lake at Red Bull Arena on October 9th, then got his second match on the road at the Philadelphia Union on October 16th. His first two starts of the season came in the goal aggregate playoff loss against the San Jose Earthquakes. He looked solid and set up the tying aggregate goal in the second leg when he faked a shot and quickly chipped a cross to Angel who headed the ball past Jon Busch.
I understand that ESPN analyst Alexi Lalas has said that we shouldn’t put too much pressure on Agudelo and turn him into a bust like Freddy Adu became. But seeing this kid during training and talking to him afterwards, I can say he has a good head on his shoulders. I also know that Hans Backe will make sure that he stays calm and never goes out of line.
But right now the future of the Red Bulls and the National Team has some hope. It’s looking good at Red Bull Arena when you will see a possible tandem of Thierry Henry and Agudelo attacking the net. On the national team level we could see Jozy Altidore paired with Agudelo. But for right now, I think Juan is going to be used for the CONCACAF qualifying tournament into the 2011 u-20 World Cup.