HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls' 3-1 loss to the San Earthquakes on Thursday night may have brought to an end a season of promise for the top team in the Eastern Conference. But it saw the birth of a bona fide rising star in teenager Juan Agudelo.
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Making just his second start and fourth appearance in league play, Agudelo got the first assist of his MLS career in the 80th minute. Beautifully freeing himself on the left side of San Jose’s penalty area, Agudelo provided strike partner Juan Pablo Angel with soft cross that the Designated Player headed into the back of the net.
“He played OK,” head coach Hans Backe said after the match. “He did well, created some chances.”
All night long, Agudelo looked like the most dangerous player on the pitch for New York. His pace, agility and physicality troubled San Jose’s defenders, who couldn’t find a definitive way to stop the forward.
Agudelo nearly opened his MLS scoring account in the first half. In the 39th minute, he received the ball just yards in front of San Jose’s goal. Creating some separation with a fake shot, the Red Bulls academy product stunned San Jose center back Jason Hernandez and hammered a shot off the post that was just inches from rolling in to equalize the match.
WATCH: Agudelo cracks the post
“I knew the defender there was [going to] bite on the fake shot,” Agudelo said. “Then, I just hit it as hard as I could.”
In the two legs of the playoff series against San Jose, Agudelo showed poise on the ball and a deft touch that is usually attributed to a much more mature player. Certainly, a skill set all the more impressive for a player who can’t yet buy a lottery ticket.
“I felt great,” Agudelo said. “It’s good to know you can play with all these players. Sticking with them, getting an assist – it feels great.”
This fall, Agudelo will get extra matches in with the Red Bulls academy team in an effort to stay sharp and improve. He also was recently called up to the US Under-20 side that will participate in a tournament in Georgia.
“You can tell he has a bright future,” defender Carlos Mendes told MLSsoccer.com. “He played like a veteran out there tonight.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be reached for comment at KristianRDyer@yahoo.com and followed at twitter.com/kdyer1012.
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