By FRANCO PANIZO
HANOVER, N.J. — Juan Agudelo has found ways to make an impact this season when he’s been on the field, but the problem for him has been staying healthy.
Back to what he calls “100 percent” after dealing with a right knee sprain for much of September, Agudelo looks set to play in the New England Revolution’s critical road match on Saturday against the New York Red Bulls. The talented youngster is likely to receive his first start since Aug. 30 as the Revolution try to improve their playoff chances at Red Bull Arena, but that does not change the disappointment he has when reflecting on how many games he’s missed in a season that has seen him be productive when injury-free.
“It’s just frustrating to kind of imagine the things that I could maybe do if I stayed healthy, because of what I’ve done when I am healthy,” Agudelo, who has six goals in 10 games for New England, told SBI on Friday. “That’s just a thought, but you just can’t be thinking about that stuff because it will just bring you down and we’re just looking forward to the future.”
Agudelo is not looking too far into the future. He does not currently wish to speak about his impending winter transfer to Stoke City, choosing instead to focus on the task at hand with New England.
Still, Agudelo admitted that he has no regrets about the decision to sign with the Premiership club, even with the Revolution looking like a team that could be dangerous for years to come with a talented core that includes the likes of Diego Fagundez and Lee Nguyen.
“I feel like as soon as I signed (with MLS) four years ago my goal was to use it as a step-ladder to play overseas and test my ability over there,” said Agudelo.
Here are more notes from around the league:
IN-FORM CAHILL NOT BOTHERED BY EARLY SEASON CRITICISM
It is not a stretch to say that Tim Cahill has had himself quite a year with the New York Red Bulls. He has scored timely goals, led the first-place team when captain Thierry Henry has not been available to play and put in strong performance after strong performance in central midfield.
It has been the type of season that few predicted he would have at the beginning of the year.
At the end of 2012 and start of the current campaign, Cahill was under the microscope from both fans and media for his lack of goal-scoring despite his label as a Designated Player. That scrutiny never really got to the veteran midfielder, who believes that his form was solid even before the goals started coming.
“Football is such a fickle game,” said Cahill, who scored the equalizer in last weekend’s 1-1 road draw in Seattle. “People don’t see the work that I put in at the start because when you want to build a team and a foundation for a squad, you don’t worry about yourself or what people write. Fifteen years, I’ve done it. It doesn’t matter if I don’t score goals. It’s always nice, but when I first come here, we were conceding four goals, three goals, two goals. The stats were ridiculous, so what you have to work on is defense and I was playing more as a defensive midfielder.
“Now that the team’s grown and become more stable, we’ve got one of the best strikers in the world up front (in Thierry Henry) and he does it year in and year out and if you can get him the ball and feed it, then he’ll score goals. With me, that was half the job in not conceding and being that player at the back to win every set play and corners and just be the man that’s sitting with Dax (McCarty).”
Cahill didn’t stop there when asked about the early-season criticism directed at him.
“When you develop as a team, after a year-and-half that I’ve been here, I feel that I worried about the team first and put myself on the line,” Cahill continued. “Regardless of the criticism, if I don’t score for my club but score one or two for my international team, obviously I know everything is going to be sweet. Goals are something that everyone concentrates on here and all of a sudden it’s a justification, but I really feel the importance of what I put in at the start was just as important in winning my teammates over, my fans and putting in the foundation work of being a team-player first before myself and being that guy that gets all the goals.”
CREW READY TO “BRING THE FIRE” ON SPORTING KC
About a month ago, the Columbus Crew suffered a 3-0 defeat to Sporting Kansas City that looked to doom their chances of reaching the postseason. A nice run of form followed, however, and now the Crew think they can turn the tables on Sporting KC.
Ever since their 3-0 defeat to Peter Vermes’ side on Sept. 7, the Crew have gone on a three-game winning streak that has seen them outscore opponents 9-3. That run has the team feeling plenty confident as it tries to book its place in the playoffs, so much so that Columbus believes it can give Sporting KC a taste of their own medicine at Crew Stadium on Saturday night.
“They know we’re bringing the pressure, and that’s what we’re going to do. I’m not even going to lie about it.” Dominic Oduro told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m sure they know we’re just going to bring the fire on them.”
How important is Agudelo to the Revolution’s chances on Saturday? Agree that Cahill was performing well before the goals started rolling in? Do you see the Crew backing up their words vs. Sporting KC?
Share your thoughts below.