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New York forwards all finding success in respective roles during latest streak


Photo by Brad Smith/


Hans Backe's forward selection quandary seems to be working itself out.

After an agonizing start to the season, one that saw the New York Red Bulls manager swap Luke Rodgers for Juan Agudelo in the starting lineup, the Eastern Conference favorites have scored seven goals in their last two matches. Six of those seven have been scored by the Thierry Henry-Rodgers-Agudelo forward triumvirate.

"It's good for competition," Rodgers said. "There's three of us there, and we all want to play. I'm scoring, (Agudelo) is scoring, Thierry is scoring. If you're a manager, it must be the best feeling in the world."

Rodgers' two-goal outburst in the first 15 minutes against San Jose on April 16 seemed to relieve some of the pressure on the attack, while Henry's recent scoring spree has helped open things up for everybody.

"When your main man is scoring goals, it lifts the team," Rodgers said. "If me and Agudelo can contribute, and the midfield is around and contributes, that's brilliant. I'm happy with that."

The midfield is certainly doing its part, too. Dane Richards, Joel Lindpere and newcomer Dwayne De Rosario have each had a hand in creating for the front line. Richards and right back Jan Gunnar Solli combined to set up Henry's two goals in the Red Bulls' 4-0 victory over D.C. United last Thursday and have been a nightmare for teams to defend on the right side of the field. 

"I knew once (Henry) got one the floodgate was going to open," said Richards, who has a goal and two assists on the season. "He's a goalscorer all his life, so he's just going to continue."

While Henry is garnering most of the headlines because of his reputation, Designated Player salary and expectation level, Rodgers has been an unsung hero in the Red Bulls' resurgence. 

"(The San Jose) game has kick-started our season, and it's just showing that now," Rodgers said after the Red Bulls' dismantling of D.C. "Everyone who's in the place now is happy. There's a buzz around the dressing room, and obviously it's showing on the pitch."

Rodgers has started the last two matches now for Backe, who has no reason to tinker with his starting XI, even after Agudelo's wondergoal against D.C. The 18-year-old United States national team forward received a cross in the area between two defenders, flipped the ball up to himself and hit a quick side volley for the final tally of the match and his second of the season.

"It was a phenomenal goal," Backe said. 

To Agudelo's credit, he has taken his recent demotion to the bench in stride.

"Luke is a great guy. We're happy to share the load," Agudelo said. "When he scored two goals I was happy for him and the team, and when I scored he came up to me and gave me a hug and was happy for me. With those type of people, situations just work. It's good to have people like that. It's going to be good for the season."

Between injuries that creep up during the season and Agudelo's potential absence for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Backe certainly has some options that can keep his team's attack sharp week-in and week-out.

"We have three good strikers," Backe said. "We can rotate a little bit."

Added Henry: "If Luke is playing with me or sometimes Agudelo, I don't know who it's going to be during the season, but we have to win and find a way to score. That's the most important thing, we have to go through this as a team."

Going by the statistics, the Red Bulls should have no problem finding a way to score in their next game, which is at home against a Sporting Kansas City side that concedes a league-worst 2.4 goals per game.

"I told you guys at the beginning of the season, once we're going to start to score, I think we're going to score a lot," Henry said. "We're going to try to do it all season. Sometimes it doesn't work, sometimes it does. At the moment it's working for us."


  1. I know you were trying to be funny, but Ft. Lauderdale and FC Tucson? Huh? And are you trying to suggest the Red Bulls haven’t been good enough to win two matches in a row in a while? Did you forget that they were first in the East last year?

  2. The way you compare Juan’s situation to Jozy’s is a little bit of an oversimplification.

    I don’t think Jozy left too soon. C Ronaldo was signed by Man U at 18 and was very quickly doing very well. It seems like Jozy just got into the wrong situation.

    The most important thing for Agudelo,whenever he decides to go for Europe, is to find himself a good situation.

    That means a club that really wants him,reasonable expections on the part of the club and himself,a stable manager that believes in him, a player pool set up so that he has a reasonable chance to play, a local culture he can adapt to without too much disruption.

    Talent and skill are obvious requirements but, unless you have Messi/Ronaldo level stuff, it’s pretty hard to make it without the aforementioned factors in place.

    Everyone is different of course but just study Holden, Donovan, McBride,Gooch, MB, Dolo, Spector and I think the formula ( the good side and the bad side) becomes obvious.

    Besides his skill and talent,Juan seems very mature and grounded(so did Jozy)and culturally adpatable(so did Jozy) so if he can get the other factors in place I see no reason why he should not succeed.

    And Jozy’s own story is far from completed. He just needs to get somehwere where he can build his confidence back up again. After all, how tough, savvy and together were you when you were 21?

  3. No denying Agudelo’s got loads of talent – and from what I’ve seen in his performances for both NY and the USA, he’s mature beyond his years. Regardless, I agree with the “bring him along slowly” camp. Don’t pile too many expectations on him at once. He’s got a great mentor in Henry (and his goal against DC showed he’s learning from him) and the competition for a starting spot will be good for him. Looking forward to great things for Agudelo in the years to come.

  4. Disagree, I think with the skillset both have, you have to make that leap as a youth if you want to push yourself to the next level. Not everyone is made to cut it in Europe, but you don’t know until you try.

    There isn’t some conspiracy against US talent like some on here will have you believe. If you’re good enough, you’ll play.

    You also need a seasoned European agent. I think relying on an agent with more US experience would kill you in Europe and ensure you get lost in the system.

    He should follow the likes of Davies, Edu, and Gatt – start off in the mid-tier leagues before moving up.

    Backe is smart to bench Agudelo, he needs to be introduced slowly. Fergie is the best at this and I’d say he has done a pretty damn good job with Rooney, Hernandez, Beckham, etc

  6. lol, you are the overweight cheating hack probably.

    Rodgers looks fantastic, so does Henry. Agudelo looks impressive but he is young and you must bring these kids in slowly no matter what their talent is.

  7. I like the idea of Rodgers battering the D for 65 minutes, then unleashing Agudelo on a tired back line. Bottom line: at this stage, it’s good for Agudelo to compete for a spot. Will help him be a pro.

    We all know that the soccer gods will ensure these guys get their chances thru the year.

  8. the excitement over Rodgers is a bit overblown. He’s an out-of-fit thug. Henry’s woken up. Agudelo shouldn’t be sitting. Other then that, glad to see NY dominating

  9. as long as JA (Juan Agudelo) doesn’t go down the same road that another JA (Josie Altidore) took… a great young talent goes overseas and gets minimal playing time. Hopefully he’ll develop slowly, learn his craft and earn the time he gets both here in the MLS and when he goes to Europe. Just hope he doesn’t go to Europe TOO early or TOO soon.

  10. Juan Agudelo is the man! (well young-man!)

    LOVE this guys creativity and passion for the game!

    We haven’t seen this for a while on the US National team!

    If Davies can get back to health, that would be an awesome pair of strikers. I wouldn’t mind seeing Herculez Gomez and Agudelo paired up top either.

  11. I don’t see how it’s the latest streak?
    They’ve won 2 matches in a row. The last time that happened was against Ft.Lauderdale and FC Tucson.
    I would change latest streak to say past 2 matches.

  12. I wonder if people forget how young and inexperienced Agudelo is. He will continue to get a ton of playing because he has a huge amount of talent and scores some really beautiful goals. I have no problem with him coming off the bench right now. As the season progresses, he will get his fair share of starts; there is no possible way Henry plays every game from here on out.

  13. Agudelo is a stud and continues to impress. Rodgers is an overweight hack that will fizzle quickly. Henry is a cheat and will again soon remember that he came here to retire.


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