Agudelo continues run of form with performance against Argentina

Juan Agudelo 1 (Getty Images)

 

By FRANCO PANIZO

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Ever since Charlie Davies was involved in the notorious car accident that severely injured him, U.S. men's national team head coach Bob Bradley has been in search of a second forward to pair with Jozy Altidore.

Bradley may have found that forward in 18-year-old Juan Agudelo.

For the third time in three games with the United States, Agudelo came off the bench and made an impact, scoring the equalizer in a 1-1 draw with Argentina at New Meadowlands Stadium on Saturday night.

The goal happened just 14 minutes after Agudelo entered the match at halftime, which raised the young forward's confidence for the remainder of the game.

"It was amazing because during the game I didn't feel too comfortable," said Agudelo. "The pitch was a little heavy and there was so much pressure (from) Argentina and there was nobody forward because everybody seemed like they were sitting back and defending.

"After the goal I felt a lot smoother on the ball, and it's amazing what a goal can do because it gives you so much more confidence."

Playing in front of friends and family, Agudelo showed a willingess to go at defenders, make runs and didn't seem phased by the stage in which he was playing on. While Agudelo admitted after the match that it was great to play against the likes of Lionel Messi, he showed no signs of nervous on the field, combining well with Altidore in their first 45 minutes of action together.

"For a young player, whenever you put (Agudelo) on the field, you can tell he has confidence," said Bradley. "He puts himself in good positions and when the ball comes, he's strong and he has something where he's looking to try things, things that make sense."

There were moments, however, when Agudelo was a bit overzealous. On one instance, with the Americans fighting to get the ball out of their own half, Agudelo tried to dribble by two defenders on the left flank, only to lose it in the U.S. team's half.

Nothing came of the ensuing Argentine attack, but it was a reminder to Agudelo that he still has much to learn.

"Day in and day out, I try to work hard and I think it's working really good for me because in training I work hard and the players and the coaches recognize that," said Agudelo.

That mentality is what has American fans salivating and U.S. teammates impressed.

"I thought he was good," said Altidore, who after an almost invisible first half as a lone striker came to life with the inclusion of Agudelo in a 4-4-2 alignment. "You see at times that he's still young and getting used to the speed of the game. I think it was a bit fast for him, but he's a confident kid. You see every time he gets the ball, he wants to show himself and I think that's awesome. I think he's improving every day, so he's a very, very talented player.

After the success the U.S. team had with the Agudelo-Altidore pairing, it's possible that Bradley opts to start the tandem in Tuesday's match against Paraguay, which would mark Agudelo's first start for the team.

If Agudelo earns a start from Bradley, the young forward would have more than just another chance to score. He'd also have an opportunity to claim the starting forward spot that Bradley has been looking to fill.

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57 Responses to Agudelo continues run of form with performance against Argentina

  1. Matt says:

    in regards to altidore, IMO he was night and day better when able to play off and pass between himself and agudelo. jozy is good, but he’s not the lone striker type. i think they can be highly effective for years. it will be interesting to see though once davies works his way back and bunbury makes himself a staple with the national team. bradley hardly ever carries 4 strikers it seems

  2. Crosebud says:

    Agreed, It reminds me of how much better Jozy seemed when paired with Davies. At this point Agudelo seems to have a bit of both of them, Charlies agression and skill off the ball and some of Jozy’s physicallity (see his goal against Seattle in week one). It will be great to have Davies, Jozy, Juan, and Bunbury able to contribute up front. Also the possibility of Dempsey and who knows if Buddle might find his form in Germany. Much better than the days when we struggled to find a partner foe old Brian Ching!

  3. The bums will always lose says:

    I don’t think you can overstate the importance of this kid’s confidence. At 18, he stepped onto the field against what is arguably the most in-form national team in the world right now and he went for it. You could tell he was not only trying to put himself in good positions, but he was looking for and, more importantly, wanted the ball. It’s early still and he’s got A LOT of developing to do, but kid certainly looks like the truth.

    I also like that he seemed to light a fire under Jozy. Whether it was the formation change and the fact that he had help, or the fact that he didn’t wanna be outdone by an 18 year old, he definitely stepped his game up in the second half. That could be a really dangerous partnership if given time to develop, and if CD9 can work his way back into that mix….I’d be excited about our options up front for the first time in awhile.

    Will be interesting to see how Bob handles the situation going forward – whether he goes 4-4-2 and has to make some really tough choices in the midfield to let Agudelo and Jozy develop a partnership up top, or goes 4-5-1 in order to get as many of Jones/MB/Edu/Holden on the field as he can.

    Certainly don’t think we should abandon the idea of a 4-5-1 (or at least some variation of it) at all, but that 4-4-2 did look a lot better in the second half.

  4. victor says:

    Every cycle has players that fill positions that are lacking or has players that are on their way off the team due to age or performance. Im seeing the future here Agudelo, c davies J altidore, Holden, chandler lichaj. I say Holden because he has had the misfortune of not having the luck of health to show on the national team when major tounaments were supposed to show his ability to blend with other players. There will be others in the future. I want to say this about Spector, I think he is a good team player, but if he is to have a future with the Nats, it will be off the bench and as CM player that West Ham is trying to fix. He has abilities , but speed as a defender is not one of them. He can be used against 2nd-3rd tier teams. Slowly but surely Bocanegra as great an asset that he has been to the Nats, he will be replaced. Onyewu has got to stop kicking the hell out of all the balls in his area. It should not be automatic, there were times when a decent pass could have kept US posession and maybe started a counter. Demerit is valuable,but made a couple serious bad passes that were cleaned up by others. I mean this was Argentina, not Trinidad and Tobago. They were beautiful to watch. I have seen the USA grow up, but as a team their is still no continuity until a tournament comes around and then u watch them gel. It might be ten more years when their bench is three deep at all positions, with players where you go YES!!

  5. Jack says:

    I hope that the management has accepted, at least for now, that Altidore is not a lone striker. The fact that Agudelo was able to inject that energy and confidence into the game, and make Altidore (technically a vet) played that much better, is impressive. The kid just ran out and took command of the attack like it was just another MLS game–no confidence issue whatsoever.

    I think that with the current state of the team, the 4-4-2 might just be their best option (it’s not necessarily reverting back to an old, stale tactic if that’s what’s working best for your team). With Holden out, I don’t think that we have the midfield components to handle it. If Altidore plays like that every time he’s paired with Agudelo, I think that it could certainly work. I can’t think of anyone who has paired that well with him since Charlie Davies was injured.

    I also have to say that as a RBNY fan, Agudelo is a particular point of pride for me. The fact that someone who is this good, who has this much potential, is homegrown out of an MLS team, is just fantastic.

  6. Crosebud says:

    Well if we are going to be playing a 4-5-1 anyway then lets start talking about bringing in this amazing kid who can’t really play in a standard 4-4-2 but he’s amazing in the attacking center half postion! Anyone know where i am going with this………….

  7. Daniel says:

    The best part of Agudelo’s performance was not only the goal, but that he was constantly involved in the attack. There was no disappearing act from him, which has been a problem with several of our attacking players over the years. As has been said before, he demanded the ball and received it in dangerous places. It was an impressive performance regardless of his age.

  8. JJJ says:

    We need Edu to get some more looks at CB, Gooch isn’t the answer. He is good in the air, however he is a liability in keeping the ball. It also will help in keeping our best players on the field. We can stick with the 4-4-2 now that we again have some options upfront. Our skill level is improving and we can become an attack oriented team. The second half was good against a world class team that was playing to win. That was the A-team for Argentina. Proof that the USA is ready to be confident against any team. we will not need to bunker if we are taking it to teams.

  9. Mike says:

    I don’t think we have the midfield pieces to play a 4-5-1 even with Holden healthy.

  10. Kevin B. says:

    Jesus SBI, you guys need to settle down, stop hyping the kid up.

  11. roger says:

    Agree. Like Agudelo but he didnt show much. Goal came from a keeper blunder. Hopefully he gets more playing time and see if he can produce at the international level.

  12. SoccerInATL says:

    The thing that really helped out in the second half with the two A’s in at the forward spots was that they put in a lot more effort in pressuring the other team’s defense which lead to a good bit of argentina turnovers. This changed the aspect of the game since we could not win anything in the first half with our 5 mids since when they got in trouble they just passed it back to their backline and swung it to the other side of the field. I haven’t seen Altidore pressure the d that much in a long time and that seemed to be down to the fact that he understood he needed to match agudelo’s efforts. Also a note, their d wasn’t much better at passing than ours was. First half just showcased better safe than sorry approach which lead to altidore to run after a whole lot of hopeless d clearance’s making him look less of a target forward than he can be.

  13. Gacm32 says:

    I completely agree. I think that Edu, or Clark with Boca would be an amazing partnership. The problem is that Clark needs game time and Edu needs to learn positioning.

  14. Gacm32 says:

    THANK YOU!! Somebody else saw the need for more pressure on the Argentinian defense to cause turnovers. That is why we turn the ball over so much, top teams put high pressure on the backline. We need to start doing that a lot more.

  15. crosebud says:

    Its interesting and I kind of agree. Last night I was thinking this kid is really raw. Then he scored two minutes later! the thing is we really hyped Freddy Adu, and then Jozy and they both got these big reps and big contracts for teams they couldn’t play for. It would be great to see Juan develop under Henry and Hans Backe for a few seasons then transfer to a team where he could get regular first team play. I think the fans and the media need to be careful about how we deal with new talent.

    That said I am gonna love watching him play and develop out in Jersey!

  16. Retro says:

    Agree! The hype is no different than in other sports. Before his injury, Bunbury was getting the hype, now it’s Juan’s turn. After the SA game Mix was getting the hype. The beat goes on. Agudelo is certainly a talent, but he never broke the opponents defense down on or off the ball. Does he belong on the senior team? Yes! Is he the most talented striker in the pool? Let’s wait and see.

  17. CroCajun says:

    How great is it to have options. We have NEVER been this deep. We have choices all over the field.

    FW: Jozy, Juan, BunB, CD9

    Attacking Mid: Deuce, LD, Stu, Chandler???

    DM: Edu, Jones, MB, Spector?? Rico???

    RB: Dolo, Chandler, Lichaj

    CB: Gooch, Demerit, Boca, Goodson, the young-guns

    LB: ????

    What time for the USMNT.

  18. Goalscorer24 says:

    I was happy for Aguedelo, and I thought Chandler played very well. But beyond that I am so tired of Bradley’s strategies. Can we officially put the 4-5-1 to rest it does not work for the US. Also can we play from the beginning of the game like we are down a goal?! The stupid bunker defense is another strategy that does not work for the US. We need to be pressuring the opponents form the get go, not backing up giving them space, and time on the ball. How come all the US fans on the blogs can see this, but the coach does not? This would never be if we had Klinsmann as our coach.

  19. Pedrinho says:

    BunB, hahaha. i love it

  20. Pedrinho says:

    …Adu?

  21. CroCajun says:

    Exactly.

    What Juan never looked overwhelmed or out of place out their, and he was fearless in the attack, but he didn’t create any of his own chances or take anybody on. He looked good, but we shouldn’t crown this guy yet. He still has a lot of developing to do.

    Juan was good, but most of the credit goes to the work LD, Deuce, Chandler, and Jozy did moving the ball.

  22. jlm says:

    “bunker defense does not work for the US”

    Seriously?

    Spain W 2-0
    Brazil L 2-3 (up 2-0 at half)
    Argentina T 1-1

    Do you think these three results go this way without us bunkering?

    I will give you that we need to be better against lesser and equal opponents, but our bunker style created some great results.

  23. Union says:

    i think we learned yesterday that against top competition, passing and ball control out of the back is paramount to gaining possession and trying to create.

    yes, once Juan came in, we then had 2 options on the counter in Jozy and Juan….but we need people in our back line that can make a pass and control the ball

    size and speed helps, but isnt the most important in our back 4

    ——Jozy—-Juan———
    –Deuce———Donovan—-
    ——-Edu—–Stu———
    -Boca-Ream-Goodson-Chandler
    ———–Timmy———

  24. Aquaman says:

    On Topic: The most impressive thing about this goal is the adjustement and body control in mid-air. It looks like he initially wanted to stop it with his left, but then decided a first time shot was a better choice.

    Off Topic: Is there any chance that those who were left off of the ARG game will get playing time in the next game because Paraguay is seen as the easier of the two teams. Could the young guys get the chance to play a little more or play with the first string players a little more?

  25. RNG says:

    It’s pretty funny that on so many sites, people were giving Bradley so much grief for sticking with the 4-4-2, and now that he’s trying other formations, they’re giving him grief for that….

  26. canchon says:

    I thought it was boon-boo-ree (cue the music)

  27. GW says:

    I agree with all of you that people should slow down on the Juan-hype but it’s worth noting that besides the goal ( which showed that he is calm under fire and has good instincts, which are tough to teach), he gave the defense someone to pass the ball to who could hold it up.

    I believe the main reason why the US defenders were just clearing out balls was that no US players in the first half were hanging on to the ball long enough. Agudelo was actually serving as an outlet for the defenders to pass to and this struck me as his most impressive feat on the night.

    The best things about this kid, his personality and his savvy, are pretty hard to teach.

  28. Taylor says:

    truth. it’s strange to think of us as having depth and options, because it was frighteningly shallow last summer. also, i don’t think we should abandon the 4-5-1 or some variation of it. with our players, i think a 4-3-3 that shifts into a 4-5-1 without the all could be a good option for us. Agudelo has shown he has a good skill set to play out wide, in a Nani-esque role, and Altidore has actually played well before taking the ball on the wings and running at players(certainly much better than his showings as a lone striker). i don’t know if it will ever be tried, but it’s an interesting thought

  29. GW says:

    “yes, once Juan came in, we then had 2 options on the counter in Jozy and Juan….but we need people in our back line that can make a pass and control the ball”

    Agudelo came in to receive passes

    Chandler was new but the rest of the defense was the same.

    Both of them gave the defense targets to give the ball to.

    By and large, the same guys who couldn’t pass the ball in the first half were the same guys who could pass the ball in the second half.

    Goodson was unavailable.

    What has Ream done to prove, actually prove, he is a better defender than Gooch and Demerit who have done this now against Argentina and Spain?

  30. Goalcorer24 says:

    Is that really the soccer you want to watch, bunker defense?! The Bunker defense is why we ultimately lost that game against Brazil! Against Spain, I would argue that we where not bunkering so much in the 1st half, in the 2nd half we did and ok we held on. And as far as longer term improvement for the US team why not play like we could win?

  31. Goalscorer24 says:

    RNG There are no posts from me saying we should be trying to play another formation!

  32. DanO says:

    Give Bradley some credit for changing tactics at halftime. 4-5-1 with the current available personnel just wasn’t working against a team that is going to dictate the run of play. I believe it is still worth seeing how a 4-5-1 works against lesser teams (i.e. everyone in CONCACAF except Mexico and Costa Rica). The US has not fully figured out how to possess the ball and truly dominate lesser teams. Not having Holden is a shame, but Bradley needs to figure out what works for the Gold Cup this year and then tinker when Holden comes back for the future. That said, it was great to see Jozy and Agudelo add some excitement to the game yesterday. OK, I know this post is all over the map, so I’m going to quit…

  33. Scott A says:

    Agu’s mix of what appears to a great work ethic, willingness to learn, and overflowing confidence could really produce good things.

  34. crosebud says:

    You got it! Can we start calling for Freddy again? Or will people get all pissy?

  35. CroCajun says:

    I thought Jozy looked good as a winger too.

    Unfortunately, I don’t think we have that CF we need to make the 4-3-3 work. Maybe Jozy will get there one day, but right now he’s not that guy.

    We looked great in the 4-4-2

  36. CroCajun says:

    Please never refer to him as “Agu” again.

    The similarity to the name of another young US soccer player who had a lot of hype is kinda weird…

  37. Jimmy Bobo says:

    You know, I was wondering when someone would make the comment that this was a keeper error. Agudelo still had a good bit to do, twisting in midair to hit it right-footed, but a good keeper never would have served it up on a platter for him like that.

  38. BK says:

    “Ever since Charlie Davies was involved in the notorious car accident that severely injured him, U.S. men’s national team head coach Bob Bradley has been in search of a second forward to pair with Jozy Altidore.”

    I don’t see the infatuation with Jozy on this board. He is a physical talent but has shown nothing to deserve the praise he gets by many US soccer fans. I would love to see a world class striker up top for us, but I’m realistic. Jozy is not the one. Why is he the default starter lacking a partner?

  39. away goals says:

    Wasn’t this the first time the 451 was employed with the full squad? I’m not saying it’s the answer, but do we know enough to “officially put it to rest”?

    One half against a top 5 team in the world is a large enough sample size?

  40. DirtyLeeds says:

    jesus… in case you haven’t figured it out by now, we don’t have a world class striker that he’s taking playing time from.

  41. Scott A says:

    heh kind of did it on purpose
    I’m not the first, but duly noted.

  42. Clover362 says:

    It seems like a bunch of posters lose all prospective on players and judge each by the last game they played. Altidore is a good player for the Nats, he has not scored goals recently but he draws more fouls than anybody which is important because we are very good at set pieces. As far as MB, he did have a sloppy game yesterday but I don’t think that should come as a surprise as he is getting limited minutes with his new team and the track was difficult last night. MB still managed to break up a lot of connections. So overall he demonstrated his value to the team even if rust kept him from passing the way we would like him to going foward

  43. Goalscorer24 says:

    Away goals – It wasn’t the 1st time the 4-5-1 was deployed. He used it in the friendly against Poland. But to be honest I think the formation is less of an issue then what type of pressure we put on the other team. If we are sitting back waiting, it is not good.

  44. Since 82 says:

    Amen. Better yet, why would you want to? We have talented young forwards that need to see the field.

  45. Since 82 says:

    There are Altidore, Adu, and Bradley trolls everywhere. Tread lightly.

  46. Since 82 says:

    Yes, we know enough.

  47. Since 82 says:

    Amen brother.

  48. Warren says:

    +1 unfortunately

  49. Warren says:

    really pissy, don’t go there. Looking good in Turkish 2nd division, sure. When he’s made it to Tukish first division, still looking good, you may speak his name.

  50. Warren says:

    Sorry guys:

    2 goals in 3 USMNT games + drawing penalty for only goal in 3rd game = NOT hype.

    That is beginning of an awesome statistical trend. Yeah he may not continue to score at a Torres or Drogba in their prime 66% strike rate; but then again, he might even get in for more than a half of a game, and do even better.

    The kid is young sure; and the kid is real good.

    My only worry is his health, if he stays healthy at least to me what we got here is obviously not a Adu-like hype machine/media invention/fan infatuation thing.

    Instead, we got a young kid who is the only striker to score for the USMNT, in some time. And he looks quite capable of more.

  51. Warren says:

    We weren’t bunkering against brazil either til we had the lead. Then BB did his nonsensical subs thing and played bunkerball til we lost the game.

    We got 2-0 up playing counter-attack, with 2 strikers. Then he brought in his pets Sacha and I forget who else, who gave the game away.

  52. Warren says:

    It was a complete flop other times BB tried it before the Cup too.

    Fans were supportive of giving it a try presuming Holden was in the center to string a few passes together; once Holden went down most folks seemed to fear, correctly, BB would try the 3 d-mid scheme of Edu, jones and Holden which didn;t work the other time he tried it either.

    What a shock, it didn;t work again.

  53. td says:

    “”bunker defense does not work for the US”

    Seriously?

    Spain W 2-0
    Brazil L 2-3 (up 2-0 at half)
    Argentina T 1-1

    Do you think these three results go this way without us bunkering?

    Disagree. We were not bunkering against Brazil in the first half. When I watched the Brazil post game feed, the coach was basically saying they were relieved when the USA pulled back to a single forward in the second half because they were having to hold both full backs because the speed of Donovan, Davies and Altidore. Although I think he was talking about Donovan and Davies regarding the speed issue. When the USA went to the single forward Brazil was able to get their outside backs into the attack, which is classic Brazil. If you recall, Dani Alves killed us because he didn’t have to hold any more.

    Same with the Argentina game. When we dropped the bunker ball aka 4-5-1, we suddenly were able to attack Argentina and relieve some pressure. Teams that attack hate to be attacked.

    The Spain game, I can’t remember well enough. I was too giddy that we won to actually recall much other than Jozy’s nice spin move.

    So, back to the thesis: the USA does not consistently get good results sitting back and hoping to withstand an onslaught and then scoring on their one or two cracks at the goal.

  54. Ted B says:

    We have what we have. Ultimately the USMNT is a lot more about finding what players you do have and finding a formation and playing style that works for them in an extremely short period of time than about tactics. With a constantly evolving, shifting roster and very short practice stints as a team, there’s no way to really build a complex system that vastly outperforms the sum of its parts…basically you have to have a solid manager who is willing to try new talent and who can keep everybody’s head glued on straight and for the most part Bob Bradley does that.

    I honestly think this Agudelo/Altidore, 4-4-2 v. 4-5-1 debate is largely academic anyhow. Right now the 4-5-1 makes sense, at least on paper (it certainly looked less good on the field) because America has a shortage of quality strikers but with Charlie Davies recovering and guys like Danny Mwanga and Omar Salgado looking to be available in the future – Salgado, if you haven’t seen him, is an absolute stud – next year at this time I suspect there’s going to be some very good strikers being left OFF the squad.

    We’re comparatively loaded at the midfield…no, we do not have a Frank Lampard or a Xavi but we’ve got about 10 European-league starters, some from upper-echelon teams, and that’s likely to remain the strength of the team through the next cycle.

    Our backline is and will likely remain our biggest issue…which is strange for a team that once boasted defensive players and not much else. Age is an issue and aside from Chandler – who sort of came out of nowhere – I simply don’t see a ton of quality young talent emerging as I do at the striker spot…especially at left back.

    Do we HAVE a left back? Is there ANYBODY out there who might be able to help us?

  55. Brent McD says:

    Don’t understand why this 4-5-1 is considered something new. We’ve been playing two defensive mids, empty bucket formation since Bruce Arena days.

  56. BigLustythongGrl says:

    prediction…Agudelo, who has only played in friendlies for US, will be offered a starting position on the Colombian national team for this upcoming Copa America and he will take it to better his skills.
    It will cause a ruckus, with Agudelo requiring protection as if it had occurred in another country.

  57. Erik says:

    wonder what Charlie Davies thought as he watched the goal and fans/media react to Agudelo? hope he can continue his return to form in MLS and make it back into the Natl team, would be great to have options up top.