It's official, Juan Agudelo is the new darling of USA soccer. Unfortunately, the USA has had a number of new darlings over the years, and after the Red Bull youngster scored to level the match against Argentina, the veterans on the team were quick to caution against putting too much pressure on Agudelo to be the savior of the strike force.
"He’s done well," Landon Donovan said after the match. "A lot of us are always cautious to anoint someone the king after a few games. The goal for him is to keep going. Scoring goals is not easy. This is my first week being with him. He has a good idea of where to be and how to move. He needs games and experience."
Agudelo certainly proved a handful for Argentina after coming into the game at halftime. His confidence on the ball and willingness to take on defenders caught the eye, even if at times he looked overanxious to push forward and slightly careless in possession.
But veteran goalkeeper Tim Howard didn't seem surprised that Agudelo showed as well as he did against one of the best teams in the game.
"He’s been impressive in training," Howard said. "(This was) another impressive performance.
Still, like Donovan, Howard was quick to temper the hype surrounding Agudelo saying that he fits the mold of many who have come before.
"I think there’s been a lot of Juans that have come and gone," he said. "There’s been very few guys who have been able to sustain it."
Howard went on to put pressure on the other members of the US National team to help the striker continue in his progression.
"I think that’s the challenge for us - for him - but for us to kind of get around him and be a barrier for him and not let (the media) pump his head up too much. It’s just about working hard and grinding every day at the Red Bulls, scoring goals in the league, getting here and working hard. Because he’s a young kid and he’s got loads of talent. But (working hard) is the most important thing, because he’s been fantastic in training so it’s a lot of confidence for a young kid."
Agudelo certainly has burst onto the scene much the same way that fellow strikers Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson once did, and while Howard had nothing negative to say about his fellow countrymen when asked if Agudelo might be the next to flash greatness and fall off, he was quick to point to the work ethic of some of his club teammates as an example of what Agudelo will still have to do.
"The best players that I've played with over the years, and I still play with now, come to work every day and they just grind it out," he said.
"I try and tell him all the time, without name dropping, you see guys like Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs and Tim Cahill and Phill Neville, those guys, you see them on the commercials and in the underwear adds but you don't see what they do behind the scenes and they work so hard every day. They're the first ones to training and the last ones off the field and I think those are lessons for young kids because you're not always going to do the right things. You're not always going to score goals, but can you work hard for the team, can you be a presence? That's important."
Yet there is no denying that Agudelo has earned his way onto the field and will be getting plenty of chances to prove himself after netting for the second time in his young international career.
As Donovan said, "He’s certainly earned his keep so far."
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