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

Juan Agudelo 3 ( 

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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."


  1. So let me get this straight…our new interpretation of the striker is to not expect goals from their opportunities because they are not quality nor are they consistent enough.

    Im going to call Bull-cough.

    Im not certain that anyone affilited with the US would even dare to admitt that. You know, if that is the case then that is what is Royally F-ed up with our system. To be forced to use our guys as tactical dummies out on the pitch and not expect any goals from them is just complete BS. Could you imagine a footballing system that lowers their expectations for goals becuase they suck? Really? 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.

    Good for Bradley and Rongen for bringing in more players to light a fire under our striker’s chairs.

  2. This is incorrect. US Soccer’s 2009 statistics show Agudelo with 2 goals in 15 caps.

    And of course Agudelo has only spent part of the time as a striker–he’s played a winger at least as often as he’s played striker at all levels.

  3. Here’s the thing: The interpretation of a striker’s job has gone from,” Someone who scores goals,” to ,”someone who helps his team score goals.”

    The quality/consistency of our strikers isn’t good enough for us to constantly give them opportunities and expect goals, so we’ve used them to create space for two guys who we know we can expect goals from: Donovan and Dempsey. The strikers occupy the centerbacks and make diagonal runs into and from wide areas that stretch the defense, provide width, and allow the wide midfielders inside.

    It may sound crazy to not expect goals from strikers, but they’re there for tactical reasons that help the team play well. Obviously if you can get guys who are technically gifted to play roles that fit the team tactically you should get them out there, and Agudelo could be that guy. However, we shouldn’t just let one goal and three good performances against teams that aren’t even half as good as the ones we’re going to be facing in the coming months decide that he’s going to be that guy.

    Essentially it’s this: You put the players out there that get your team to play best.

  4. I think the issue with altidore is focus and maturity. When he really gets after it, makes hard runs, puts himself in good positions, and makes life difficult for the defense, he is a class forward. however, he is sometimes suspect when it comes to work ethic and his overall maturity and approach to the game. these are things aguedelo needs to take care not to repeat

  5. I completely disagree with the whole “holds it up like no one else in our pool” sentiment. I think that’s the part of the game that he’s uncomfortable with. In fact, the whole thing of being a target striker seems quite difficult for Jozy to do. I find that he’s great at using his size, speed, strength and skill to run at the backline as a second striker rather than having to play with his back to it. My main point is that he’s just inconsistent in a lot of what he does. His first and finishing touch can be great and terrible sometimes. He’s getting more consistent as time goes on though, and that’s what’s important.

  6. Bunbury will be better at peak than either. Size, speed, skill and he strikes the ball very well. Professional as a father cannot be ignored, you know what it takes

  7. lol at the disparity between your “willy nilly” disclaimer and your last sentence. the bandwagoning desperation from the gullible mob, ready to anoint new saviors and trash the old, is seemingly inexhaustible.

    Restraint, perspective, foresight, measured thought. You and the (too) many like you should try them out sometime.

  8. I hope you meant promising compared to what we had last cycle!!! However, most of these guys are far from being proven as competent international level players. The players that do have experience are mostly regarded as well below that level required for a top level national program. I mean… we are seeing progress but common!!! We aren’t producing elite players by any means!!!!!

  9. “It is much, much, harder to create an oppurtunity on goal; than it is, to finish it. Not to take away anything away, from Juan Agudelo, as he looks to be a quality finisher.”

    That is true and Juan created that goal.

    If you can watch a re-play. Juan starts it by playing a nice ball into Diskerud in the first place and then makes a nice run to put himself in place for the return pass. Very smooth and natural.

    So you are not being fair in denying Juan his creative input in “creating” the chance for that goal in the first place. Both kids have good instincts, stop trying to imply that one is more worthy than the other.

  10. That is nonsense. Go watch the video again, it was a brilliant little pullback on the ball before sending it over to agudelo. Diskerud i see as a big player for us in the future. He’d probably be best used as a CAM/CF obviously playing above a lone striker. I hope Bob puts him there against Chile.

  11. With all due respect, you are getting willy nilly over one goal.

    “already miles beyond jozy’s”. That’s just ridiculous.

    It’s fans with insanely unrealistic expectations like you that make it overwhelming for kids like Agudelo.

    Jozy, Ching, Gomez, Cooper,EJ, Davy Arnuad,Jeff Cunningham,even Conor Casey might have finished off that chance.

    You can’t load the weight of the entire fan bases’ expectations on the back of a 17 year old just because he did something like that once. If he starts doing it many times, regularly then we have something.

    Until then please stop with the over blown hype.

  12. Our current crop of U-20s is definitely better and deeper than we’ve ever had. The number of pros is much more in line with what we should see.

  13. add

    Bobby Wood: teenager with German 1st division team

    Edson Buddle: striker with German 2nd division team

    Jack McIrerney: teenage striker with Philly Union and former top U-17 prospect

    (i could keep going about guys like Soony Saad, Will Bruin, and possible switches like Danny Mwanga, but you get the point…the pool looks deep! JUMP IN AND SCREAM “CAAAANNONBAAAALL!”)

  14. Good article Adam. I think this will come up more and more in the US squad, considering the youngsters are better than ever and their egos could get the best of them.

  15. Speed,skill, nose for goal? really?? I am not sure about that…yes he uses his size & strength, but we all know his first touch is atrocious, and as far as his speed, it kind of goes hand-in-hand with his hustle up top. I see him troting most of the game, causing no pressure on defenses. I am pretty sure if Agudelo is not our future forward, someone else will. Jozy, just like Adu, were hyped from a very young age. Jozy has not had to fight for his spot, its been handed to him, but now that there is competition, I wouldn’t be surprise if he becomes just a super sub for this next 4 yr. cycle.

  16. I don’t care how many headaches you cause defenses. If you’re not putting the ball in the net, you’re not doing your entire job.

    He plays his role of diagonal runs and holding up decently well. But if that’s all we expect out of our striker (and in most cases, single striker), then we have issues as supporters.

  17. I definitely did not see it that way, (a bad touch), seems to me that he rolled the ball back and flipped it in one continous movement…very creative in front of the goal.

  18. That Agudelo has only scored once in twelve outings for the U-20s, after being *considerably* more productive in U-17s is not a great sign.

    OTOH, that he’s batting 1000 for the senior team is a good sign.

  19. I just hope they don’t overwork the kid this year. U-20 qualies, U-20 finals, Gold Cup with the national team…that’s too much. He needs to get regular playing time with his club team if he’s really going to continue his development and not burn out.

  20. I’m gna take a guess and say that they give Jozy the number 9 or 11 now. Jozy is now first choice striker so they numbers 14 and 17 will go to up and coming strikers like Agudelo and Bunbury

  21. I think highly of Diskerud but I think that the play was actually a mistake on his part. The flick was just his attempt to get a foot on the ball after a bad touch.

  22. I’m really trying to keep this kid in the back of my mind when i think of the nats. I want him to surprise me, if anything. Which i hope he will.

  23. i do agree with you there. i don’t want anyone to think that i’m saying jozy isn’t talented, because he clearly is. it’s just that his touch lets him down at times. it’s not really fair either to compare the two now that i think about it because they are different players style-wise. jozy is not great going at players, but he can hold it up like no one else in our pool and he elevates the players around him too. i just think agudelo has shown a higher technical quality and a much better first and second touch than any other striker we’ve seen in a while

  24. Not to sound like I’m on the Bandwagon here. But, Yes I think Diskerud might have much more upside than Agudelo…. It is much, much, harder to create an oppurtunity on goal; than it is, to finish it. Not to take away anything away, from Juan Agudelo, as he looks to be a quality finisher. Its hard to tell from having played so, few games. A couple min for the national team and a handfull of games for NYRB, its hard to judge someone, when we have seen so little of him… Lots of promise, though..

  25. I don’t know if anyone has mentioned this but it did throw me off that Agudelo was wearing #17 against South Africa, which is Jozy’s number. They look different physically and are different players but some of the similarities are eerie.

  26. The potential crop of US Strikers is looking very promising.

    Jozy Altidore: 21 yrs Old, WC & European Experience

    Teal Bunbury: 21 yrs Old, Did Well against SA

    Juan Agudelo: 18 yrs Old, Did well against SA

    Eugene Starikov: 22 yrs Old, European Experience, Well see how he does against Chile

    Charlie Davies: 24 yrs Old…TBD how he plays or if he ever recovers his Old Form before accedent.

    Robbie Findley: 25 yrs Old…Hoping he impoves in England.

    Conor Doyle: 19 yrs Old, U-20 player, Possible Future w/ USMNT?

    Omar Salgado: 17 yrs Old, U-20 player, Possible Future w/ USMNT?

    Joseph Gyau: 18 yrs Old, U-20 Player, Possible future w/ USMNT?

    Should be very interesting over the next 4 yrs.

  27. What most excites me about Agudelo is that he’s not going to be a player put out there because we need someone to perform a certain task. By that, I mean when he makes diagonal runs into and from wide areas like Davies and Findley did, he’s not doing it just because we need someone to stretch defenses, threaten to get behind, and allow Donovan and Dempsey inside. He’s doing it because he’s good at taking players 1v1 and getting in the crosses. When he drops into the midfield to receive and link play to the attack, he’s not doing it just because we need to get the ball into the attack. He’s doing it because he’s a creative guy that can crack open the defense.

  28. I kind of agree. Diskerud seems like the kind of guy made for a playmaking role, or at least the Donovan/Dempsey role in our 4-2-2-2. Good touch, skillful, flashy, composed, good movement, creative and showed some hussle late in the match that helped an already-booked Lichaj handle Tshabalala.

  29. Completely agree with u Papa.. Diskeruud was very impressive and his pass to Juan was very similar to Ronaldo’s pass to Kaka last weekend… it took some skills

  30. I think Jozy CAN finish a lot of the chances that we give him and has shown an ability to, he’s just young and inconsistent. Agudelo is the same way. The thing about both of them is that while their inconsistent moments are frustrating, their special moments are better than just about any other player at their position/role. That’s why Jozy and Juan are getting looks.

    Moreover, I think you’ve exaggerated Juan’s abilities. Even if Agudelo is more technically gifted than Altidore, which he isn’t if you ask me, Jozy’s combination of size, speed, strength, skill and nose for goal are what trouble defenses. He’s a multi-dimensional forward that can backlines backaches in different ways.

  31. definitely more poise on the finishing end than Jozy… I don’t know what’s wrong with him but i’ve never seen a player miss soo many sitters!

  32. I was actually just as impressed, if not more so, with Diskeruud in the SA game. Striker is much more of a need position so I understand why Agudelo is getting so much attention though.

  33. thats debatable. I think jozy would have finished off the chance that Bunbury got when he trapped the ball with his thigh and turned and shot. I also think that Jozy would have given the SA defense a much greater headache had it been Jozy starting up top that game.

  34. I hope he continues to work hard and progress. I’m a LA Galaxy fan but I’m definitely going to watch alot of NYRB matches next season to watch Juan. You can see he has a lot of potential. too bad the people at EA didn’t see this potential cuz in career mode HE DOES NOT GROW!!! =P haha. Nah but seriously i’m going to be watching him alot so i can see him progress

  35. so excited for this kid. i don’t want to get all willy nilly about one goal, but his touch and composure in front of goal was much more reassuring than anything we’ve seen as US fans in a long time. i just don’t see jozy finishing that chance that agudelo did against SA. his technical ability is already miles beyond jozy’s if you ask me


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