Juan Agudelo Loving Time With US U-23 But Needs More Of It With Red Bulls

Juan Agudelo, the 19-year-old sensation who has seen ups and downs in his young career, was asked to explain himself.
“It’s a process right now,” he said. “But I’m trying to do something new. I guess you can try some things when you’re young.”

Agudelo, who is entering his second season with the New York Red Bulls, was talking about his new ‘do.  But his words could also describe where the promising forward is at in his career.

Agudelo bursted onto the scene as the latest savior of American soccer at 17 when he scored three goals in three games — the first a friendly match-winner vs. host South Africa, that goal (also a match-winner) vs. the Seattle Sounders in the Red Bulls’ first match of the 2011 season then scrapped for another vs. Argentina in a friendly at Giants Stadium.  But then he hit a wall, starting just 12 games for the Red Bulls and having his practice habits questioned.

2012 may be crucial for Agudelo’s progress.

The Red Bulls crowded its forward pool — which already consisted of Agudelo and starters Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers (who is dealing with work visa issues but is expected back)– even more when the team brought in veteran Kenny Cooper from Portland.  Agudelo will have to prove he has what it takes to not only break into the Red Bulls’ starting 11 but stay there.

Agudelo, though, has shown what may be in store in the near future when he shined as the starting center forward in the US U-23 national team’s dominant 2-0 friendly win over arch rival Mexico earlier this month. Agudelo held the ball well, made dangerous runs and combined well with his teammates as the highest attacker in the team’s 4-3-3 formation.

Agudelo’s goal, a header off a corner kick to make it 1-0, highlighted a performance worthy of a standing ovation, and he loved every minute of it.

“It was awesome,” Agudelo told AZKicksIt at the Desert Diamond Cup in Tucson on Saturday. “I loved every second when I was with those guys. The style of play is so much fun. I’m excited for all the viewers when we get to (Olympic) qualifying because we’re going to play some pretty football.”

He will likely be given plenty of chances with the US team this year as a key member of the U-23 team trying to qualify for and hopefully play in this summer’s Olympics in London as well as the senior national team.  But Agudelo still has to prove his worth at the club level and to Red Bulls coach Hans Backe. Agudelo said he’ll play whatever role he’s earned.

“If I have to come off the bench, I’ll be real professional about it,” he said. “When I’m playing on the field, I have to score goals; just whatever it takes so the team wins.”

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