Under-20 World Cup

Agudelo keeps his cool as expectations keep building for next future USA star

Juan Agudelo 3 (ISIPhotos.com) 

                                                        Photo by ISIPhotos.com 


The life of a professional soccer player can change in just a moment. 

One well-timed pass or run can change a player's life. In the case of Juan Agudelo, a goal in the 85th minute of a November friendly vs. South Africa catapulted him into a new reality. The 18-year-old New York Red Bulls academy product had impressed his club enough to appear in the Red Bulls final four matches of 2010, including both playoff games against the San Jose Earthquakes.

These two performances led to the forward being called up for the U.S. team's' match against Chile on January 22nd. Seen by many as a potential star in the making, Agudelo will likely play a large part in the upcoming date with Chile.

Despite being seen as a top prospect for the Red Bulls and the United States this sudden rise has been a bit overwhelming for the 18-year old. 

"My whole life has changed," said Agudelo. "I don't want anything to distract me from my game because I know that has happened to some players and I don't want that to happen to me so I just need to continue to do what I've done my entire life by focusing on what happens on the field and leaving the rest off of it."

Agudelo's rise has led to many to compare him to Jozy Altidore, another Red Bulls product, who has developed into the U.S.' first choice forward while playing for Spanish side Villarreal. Throughout Altidore's career, he has battled expectation due to his sudden rise and there is concern that Agudelo may face much of the same scrutiny.

Bradley has been keenly aware of this rise in expectations for Agudelo and a number of his other youngsters. In order to temper any expectations, Bradley has had to resort to a number of different tactics depending on the player. For Bradley, having Agudelo balance his time between Thomas Rongen's side and the full squad is necessary to keep his young forward grounded. 

"There's a lot going on for him right now," said Bradley. "It's our job to make sure that he understands that keeping humble and how to continue to work and improve and earn the respect of his teammates and so far he's responded well."

2011 is shaping up to be a seminal year for the young forward's aspirations in a U.S. jersey. In addition to Saturday's match, Agudelo figures to be a key contributor to the U.S. U-20 World Cup team for the tournament in his native Colombia in late July. Agudelo and the U-20s begin their qualifying run in April in the CONCACAF qualifying tournament in Guatemala.

To add to the already bloated fixture list for the youngster, he is also considered a dark horse to join the U.S. Gold Cup squad. Balance all these potential commitments with being a focal point in the Red Bulls in 2011 and you have the makings of a very important year for the youngster. Despite the added pressure, Agudelo's maturity and his relationship with Bradley is what helps keeps him grounded as he prepares for what could be called by many to be the biggest year of his young life. 

"[Bradley] is a great guy and I like his personality because he really cares for his players," said Agudelo. "He told me to stay humble and keep my feet on the ground so that I can stay focused."

  • Retro

    I totally agree with you. This kid continue to be overlooked. He has the tools to become the most dominant striker in the last 15 years. Juan is very, very good, his touches are great but his game is horizontal. He doesn’t run at the central defense. He is truly a sideline to sideline player. That my friends is not a striker.


  • DaveW

    Telefutura. Some folks in select urban areas may be able to get it over the air if their for-pay TV package doesn’t have it. And those of us who didn’t want to pay extra for Telefutura, don’t live in its broadcast area, and have a slow internet connection will hear about it from the rest of you, thanks in advance.


  • Lil' Zeke

    Get it straight, our best foot forward isn’t trying to be what we’re not when it matters. Go ahead, “turn on the pressure” in the youth system if that’s your management style. But your wishful thinking is not welcome in our WCQ campaign.


  • GW

    Such outrage over such a minor detail. You must be very bored.

    Isaac was merely saying that if a team does not have a prolific striker, or two then their goal output could be found elsewhere.

    There, now the world did not end did it?

    Goal scoring strikers in general are not very common anywhere. The current (last couple of years and maybe one or two more) edition of the USMNT stopped relying on the striker position for goals like they used to once McBride left.

    Instead, it has relied primarily on its two best players and most consistent scorers, Clint and Landon, plus whatever it can get out of the rest of the team especially on set pieces. Even Davies was there primarily to stretch the field so that the dynamic duo could have more chances.

    In case you think this is some sort of revolutionary notion,look at Man U. right when Ruud van Nistelrooy left after the 2005-6 seaso and took his 24 or so goals to Real Madrid. The next year Man U actually scored more goals spread out over more players. Guys like Giggs, Scholes, Carrick, Fletcher and Park chipped in with a couple of extra goals.

    I’ll let you look up the figures but they are there. It wouldn’t hurt to read up on this sport every once in a while. You might even find you like it.

    Hopefully this current US striker crop will start to get productive just around the time Clinton/Donovan start to wind down.


  • GW

    I’ve watched that replay quite a bit and I don’t see it as a mistake. Mix was surrounded and , it seems, used the pull back to creat a little space for himself. The real skill was not so much in the pull back but in then getting it out to Juan.

    Even if it was a mistake, so what? Mix made something out of it. This is not an exact game.


  • sir coble

    I agree with teal! I think Juan has the quickness and stepovers, but I think/hope Burnbury becomes the complete striker for usmnt. I believe Juan can beat an outside back and make something happen towards the box, but Teal seems like a better prospect.(to me) His runs and spacing seem so intelligent. I think the three of them (jozy, juan, and teal) make for a very excited pool coming towards brazil.


  • Louis Z

    “nose for goa” I thought that was one of Jozy’s knocks…he can’t finish. Jozy is stronger than Agudelo but I don’t think he is faster than him, Agudelo is more of a finess player. I thought Agudelo was a finisher but he is also going through a dry spell with the U20.


  • Primoone

    Right…you again. You mistake my passion for boredom. I would imagine it would be difficult for a person such as yourself to recognize passion. I have been a Man-U supporter long before Cantona put the team on his back. Thanks for choosing the exception as your example. Personally I think it is pretty stupid to compare apples to oranges don’t you think? Why don’t you go and dig up some stats on a national team with the same level of talent comparable to that of the US who has been successful playing with two strikers that don’t really score or who are not expected to make most of their opportunities and have been consistently successful at it.

    Oh, and thanks for clarifying what Isaac meant. I am really sure he appreciates you wiping his behind for the second time. Why don’t you let Isaac enjoy his time here on the blog instead of pulling rank and answering his own posts? Truth be told GW, I enjoy discussion things with Isaac…you see, Isaac doesn’t come off as a pompous jack-hole. Just sayin man…


  • Isaac

    Um….Thanks….. I suppose.

    But GW has it right when it comes to interpreting my argument.

    You were making a bit of a strawman argument by saying that we should not expect our youth strikers to score goals, though. I’m not saying we shouldn’t expect goals from them at the youth level, or any level really. I’m saying that when it comes to tournaments like the World Cup and the Gold Cup where results matter and you need to get your team to play it’s best, the plan behind getting a team to play it’s best doesn’t always include a goal-scoring striker. Sure, Davies and Altidore could make defenses tremble on their own, but their main job was creating space for Donovan and Dempsey. We were so dangerous at the Confederations Cup because we were relying on the TECHNICAL quality of good players, but also had a good TACTIC behind how those players worked together, and that goes for the backline as well.

    The point is this: You should put players out there for a tactical reason, not just because they’re in good form. When you get a combination of players who are in good form and fit a tactical purpose, you get a good team pretty often, hence the 2009 Confederations Cup squad.


  • Vince

    Interesting opinion. I remember Ives being asked who was further along in their development by age 18: Agudelo or Altidore.

    Ives laughed and said Altidore by several miles, and that everyone should probably settle down a bit on Agudelo. Talented yes, but maybe wait and let the kid, I don’t know, play a full year of professional football first?

    What I liked about this article was the line, “one well-timed pass can change a player’s life.” Yet the guy who made the pass in this case, Diskerud, barely gets a mention. And Diskerud has a far better track record of professional success at this point. Kinda ironic, Diskerud made that pass that changed Agudelo’s expectations exponentially.

    For me, I’d like to see a lot of both players before crowning them the Next Great Hope of American Soccer.


  • Lost in Space

    I agree we aren’t producing ELITE players. But then again we never have and very FEW countries perduce more than 1 elite player per Generation. All I was pointing out is that there are ~10 Strikers who in the next 4 years could very well present solid cases for being the starting Striker for the USMNT. In the past 20-25 years of the USMNT have we ever been able to make that sort of claim?

    I can’t think of any time in the past where the USMNT has had the (potential) depth where they could realistically field a team to take tactical advantage of a situation by playing different formations (4-4-2, 4-2-3-1, 4-1-3-1, 4-4-1-1, 4-3-3, 4-3-2-1) and/or different player combinations without a significant drop in Form/Performance.

    Historically the US has only been able to field 9-11 Strong Players and play a singel formation. This has (almost) always made us a very predictable team that the TOP Tier teams can disect/exploit. Or where an injury to a single player (Davies 2010) total disrupts the team and lowers expectations. If 4-6 of the 10 players mentioned above continue to develope at the rate they have been then the USMNT will have true OPTIONS come 2014 instead of a knee jerk reaction like we had in 2010.


  • Annelid Gustator

    Wikipedia gives
    U-17: 16 appearances (12 goals)
    U-20: 8 appearances (1 goal).

    Looking at US Soccer, I see
    U-17: 14 (2) (2009)
    U-20: 8 (1) (2010)

    Hm, that’s quite a disparity. To the wiki-mobile!


  • GW

    “I would imagine it would be difficult for a person such as yourself to recognize passion.”

    Ah, the “passion” argument. As if being passionate made things right. Well lots of bad people did lots of bad things because they were “passionate”. That did not make it right. It just meant they were passionate.

    Clearly you are passionate about form and terminology, “Strikers” must score goals, etc. Well, Issac was saying what really matters, and I agree with him , is that your team score one more goal,or at least as many goals as the other guys. It doesn’t matter where the goals come from. I think maybe even you would be happy if we had won the World Cup and every goal came from Jay Demerit and Carlos Bocanegra.

    Oh and if you want a private, intimate discussion with Isaac, why don’t y’all exchange e mails and continue it in private?

    That way you can keep out us unwelcome outsiders.


  • wally

    I seriously hope this kid can stay “humble” and “focused” per Bob’s direction, but I’m not sure Bob’s doing him any favors. The hype is just silly at this point, and Bob’s fueling the fire. I frankly question the wisdom of having him shuttle between the sr. and u20’s camps like some chosen one, when the guy has started just a handfull a games in MLS. Not saying he’s not good enough to contribute to the nats, just saying I’d rather have Bob give him some space to consistently perform at a club and succeed with the u20’s before throwing him to the wolves.


  • Dainja

    and forgot to add:

    Adrian Ruelas, U-20 forward with Santos.

    (in other words, grab your snorkel…the pool gets deeper. and yea, Buddle isn’t young, but the comment at the top was the overall striker pool, not just young talent. but our youth is where its at, clearly. )


  • Primoone

    WOW Gw…thanks for those profound words of enlightenment. Congratulations! your parents must be soo proud.

    Passion is the driving force behind motivation. What I wanted to convey was a message that called for a change in the way people think. No one is arguing whether or not the end result of passion is good or bad Einstein. Look at the definition of insanity…Keep doing what your doing and you will end up with the same result.

    And look man…by the sound of that last part…It reads as if you got your feelings a little hurt. You can be part of the discussion guy however, why not leave the Jerk A**-hat part of your personality out of the posts and viola! Instant positive contribution…


  • Gacm32

    Are you high jig?? Do you even watch soccer? I swear every time you comment on some thread it’s one of the more ignorant comments on the entire thread. Just leave you troll.


  • GW

    What discussion?

    Your posts generally have very little to do with the game ( like Isaac’s posts for example). They are usually hypersenstive overreactions,lashing out at attacks(real or imagined) on you or your concepts.

    When you actually have something to say besides vitriol then perhaps you will get people discussing things with you in a sensible fashion.

    For example, why did you say the following and how do you propose someone should address it:

    “Never must we accept that our guys are not going to score and relieve them of that pressure to score. Once we do then our system be damned now and in the future. This mentality is one of the main reason why we don’t have any real strikers playing consistently outside of MLS. The mentality needs to change and the pressure needs to be turned up on these kids. Score or get the F off the field and let someone else have a crack at it.”


  • markos

    I think Juan is a bit overrated, yeah he can show flashes here and there, but who hasn’t? You can see plenty of them done even by amateurs. Nothing to take away, I do think he is a solid professional player.

    I want him to prove me wrong against Chile


  • Primoone

    Wow…are we still discussing your innability to appreciate anyone’s opinion other than your own? Seriously GW, are you bored or something?


  • GW

    I tried to get you to actually talk about soccer instead of just trading insults but whatever floats your boat.


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