At 18, he lives with his mother, washes the dishes and his own clothes, and follows house rules. One might think there's nothing unusual about him, that he's a typical hispanic youth with a family that maintains tradition and values.
In fact, he's Juan Sebastián Agudelo, the Colombian-born forward who plays for the New York Red Bulls and the USA national team, the young man who has drawn the eyes of all fans of the "Stars and Stripes".
Agudelo is 6'1, weighs 183 pounds and has been a sensation with two goals in only four games with the USA national team. He's also a star on his MLS team and Goal.com interviewed him after a club practice in New Jersey.
Agudelo's smile was as bright as the diamond in his left ear and he was friendly and full of news to share.
Goal.com: How have you managed with the pressure and expectations set up by what you've already accomplished?
Juan Agudelo: “The truth is that I don't pay much attention to that. There are expectations, I know that. But I want to dedicate myself to playing my game, to improving and I won't stop doing the things that got me here. I leave distractions outside of that - I concentrate on working and playing as hard as I can. I have to thank my family, especially my mom, because they help me understand that I shouldn't focus on situations that are upsetting, that it's better to be stable and calm.”
We talked about a few other things, and Agudelo mentioned his hand was stepped on Tuesday and was still a bit damaged. He also confirmed that his Twitter account is @juanagudelo39.
Goal.com: Why did you sign with Red Bulls when it seemed you were about to sign with Millionarios in Colombia?
Juan Agudelo: “I spend a preseason with Millonarios and I'm very grateful. For me, it was a good experience, an it helped me a lot, especially with my physical conditioning. But when it came time to decide, and I found out that I had an opportunity to train with the full team of New York in their preseason, I thought it wasn't the right time to begin to live all on my own. I have family in Cali and Manizalez, but in Bogotá I would have lived alone. My family and I decided it wasn't the right time. In the end, things turned out well for me.”
Although Agudelo doesn't seem bothered by questions, he speaks a bit slowly in Spanish, with a clearly Colombian accent, and it seems he thinks in English first. He speaks with affection and love of his birth country, but he now represents the United States, which leads to the obvious question.
Goal.com: Did the Colombian federation ever approach you about playing for them?
Juan Agudelo: “ Yes, but I think the invitation came too late. We played a friendly with Colombia in Georgia and after the match the coach approached me and said that they were thinking about inviting me to a camp, and what did I think about that? The truth was, I'd have liked that, but it didn't seem right to me. I'd already played with the U17 and and U20 teams of the United States, and to change to another country at that point seemed wrong. I was born in Colombia and I love the country, but at this point, I've spent most of my life in the United States and I'm very grateful for what this country has given to my family and I. I didn't see it as right to accept Colombia's invite.”
Goal.com: Do you think some people will see that as traitorous to your nation of orgin?
Juan Agudelo: “No, no way it's treason. It was a dificult decision, but like I said, I had it clear in my head in that regard. By the time Colombia came calling for me, the U.S. had already asked me to represent them. I didn't think twice, it was an honor."
Goal.com: What do you say about those who claim that to sign a professional contract with a team there are clauses that spell out that in order to play for the first team, a player has to promise to play for the USA national team, rather than whatever country they were born in?
Juan Agudelo: “I didn't see anything like that in my contract. I'm speaking in my case, but I don't believe any player in the world that gets a call from a national team has to say no - it's the highest level, where everyone wants to be.”
Other reporters waited to speak with Agudelo, but he seemed comfortable conversing in Spanish, so a few more questions were ventured.
Goal.com: So with your mom at home, you have to follow the rules?
Juan Agudelo: “Sure, Colombian moms are tough! I always mind her and I thank God for my family, because they keep me grounded. At my house, I'm not a bigshot pro player, but an 18 year old who has to wash the dishes, wash my clothes and in the end, grow up to become a better person.”
Agudelo mentions learning from players such as Landon Donovan, as well as the U.S. captain Carlos Bocanegra and other veterans on the squad who are happy to give advice.
He also feels well received by USA fans, especially Latino ones.
“I must be doing something right if at 18, people recognize me and I think that's why I have to be careful to act right, because I could be a role model for somebody.”
Agudelo believes in the power of dreams. "For about two years I dreamed of being a professional player, and now I'm there. Now the time has come to chase new goals and work hard to make those dreams come true, because they don't come for free."
Goal.com: Now, aren't there teams in Europe interested in you?
Juan Agudelo: “ I leave those issues to my agent. Right now, I'm just working hard to be a regular starter on the Red Bulls and to score goals. If there's an interesting offer, my agent will bring it to me, but I try to stay away from distractions. But it's no secret that the highest level is in Europe and one day I'd like to go there.”
Agudelo is also planning to return to his home country. Red Bull have planned a series of soccer clinics for children and he is going as the team's ambassador.
A humble attitude and discipline will carry him far.
Click here to read Agudelo's interview in the original Spanish!