Backe wary of overexposing phenom Agudelo too soon

RBNY coach knows Agudelo has skills, but prefers to be patient

Agudelo Backe

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After a somewhat invisible match during a 0-0 tie at Chivas USA on
Saturday night, Red Bulls teenage forward Juan Agudelo has come under
scrutiny for his quiet performance.

The teenager, now a regular call-up to the United States national team,
is two weeks removed from a brace in a midweek win over Toronto FC but
failed to make an impact in the Red Bulls subsequent losses to D.C.
United and then this past weekend’s tie in Carson, Calif.

Head coach Hans Backe cautioned that Agudelo, who exploded on the scene
last year during the MLS Cup playoffs while still just a teenager,
might be going through too much, too soon — especially in regards to
sponsorships and media exposure.

“I just felt it was too much around him,” Backe said. “It still has
been — it’s difficult to protect a player who has been in commercials.
He’s too early, too young. That’s the way it is worldwide, with 17-,
18-year-old guys having success at an early age.”

Backe was surprised last year that, after just a handful of MLS games,
Agudelo was called up for a national team friendly in South Africa.
Agudelo scored in that match earning another call in January and then he
tallied in March, scoring the equalizing goal in a 1-1 draw against
Argentina before being named to last month's Gold Cup roster. Since
then, he has enjoyed some success with the Red Bulls, scoring four
goals, but is behind Thierry Henry and Luke Rodgers for selection to the
starting XI.

“As a young guy, you lose focus,” Backe said. “Even if you say, ‘I can
handle it,’ you can’t handle it, I know it. I think the club just has to
be aware, get the information all the time.”

Calling Agudelo’s game and partnership with Henry a “learning process,”
Backe said that he doesn’t plan on changing the strike partnership from
Saturday night for Wednesday's match at Colorado (9:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online). With Rodgers still out with a heel injury, it looks like Agudelo has a chance to redeem himself.

And Backe, who will coach the MLS All-Stars next week against
Manchester United, had no problems with Agudelo being named to the
squad. MLS Commissioner Don Garber tabbed Agudelo for the honor and
Backe understands the inclusion of the young striker to face the English
Premier League champions.

“He’s a Home Grown, he’s a talented player,” Backe said. “It’s about
him becoming the next, the future player for the US. I’m not surprised
at all.”

Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer