Saturday night was the start of a tough two match stretch for the U.S. national team. One of the best teams in the world came to the New York City tri-state area to face the United States with over 78,900 fans in attendance at the New Meadowlands Stadium. Mighty Argentina, with players like Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria and Javier Zanetti, were ready to give a clinic to the many that came.
But after going down a goal before the halftime whistle, it was a young and upcoming player that just turned eighteen five months ago that gave hope to the many cheering for the red, white and blue. In the 59th minute, a free kick was awarded. Taking the free kick was Landon Donovan who sailed it towards the net. Carlos Bocanegra headed it and forced a save by Andujar, But somehow he lost it and out of nowhere New York Red Bulls youth sensation Juan Agudelo got a poke on the rebound and buried his second national team goal in three matches.
“It was amazing just seeing so many people here and to score in my home town” said Agudelo, “I was extremely happy. And happy to do it with my mother in the stands. It was crazy to score against Argentina and against Lionel Messi.” What an amazing thing to see a kid like Juan Agudelo. This kid has been touted very highly in the Red Bulls youth academy and he continues to grow, continues to not get ahead of himself and he is showing very quickly that he is going to be with the national team for a long time. “For a young player like Juan when you put him on the field he has confidence.” said US head coach Bob Bradley. “He puts himself in good positions and when the ball comes, he’s strong and he has something where he is looking to try things and does it.”
Coming to the New Meadowlands Stadium and seeing one of the great national teams in world soccer, I have to say that what I, you and many others saw was an absolute clinic. I have never seen such great passing, skill and physical ability with a soccer ball in my life. It was a joy to see this for the first time what many of us have seen when you turn on your television sets and watch what Lionel Messi does for F.C. Barcelona in La Liga. It was just a pleasure to see them perform a fantastic first half.
No matter how many times they were knocking on the front door of Tim Howard’s net you had a feeling that they were going to get that goal and did so in the forty-second minute. Messi brought the ball inside the area and found Angel di Maria who shot it towards the near post and was stopped by Howard, but the rebound went to Esteban Cambiasso who stuffed it home and the USA were very fortunate that they only gave up that one goal. No matter what the USA did in the first half, Argentina were two, three or four steps ahead of them on the field and took advantage all the time.
Argentina can play pretty and attractive football once they cross the midfield line, but when they get inside their opponents area it’s down and dirty trying to smash the ball into the net and you have to admire their tactics from head coach Sergio Batista. They came over and meant business tonight and somehow the game plan was thrown out the window. But give credit to Bob Bradley for making the tactical changes at the start of the second half bringing in Agudelo. His explosiveness was tough for the Argentine defenders to handle and could’ve scored a second, but a one all draw is a fair result.