HARRISON, N.J. – Teenager Juan Agudelo may have been making only his third league start but he was decisive for New York on Saturday night in their 1-0 win over Seattle at Red Bull Arena.
The New York Red Bulls Academy product not only drew a penalty kick in the eighth minute, but he also scored the only goal of the game and consistently proved to be a handful throughout the match.
“I think maybe he surprised the defenders with how strong he is," teammate Jan Gunnar Solli said. “He uses his power, his strength.”
And it was his strength and composure that showed in the 71st minute when holding midfielder Teemu Tainio angled a 50-yard pass over the top of the Seattle defense, splitting Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Leo Gonzalez perfectly into the path of Agudelo.
Muscling off a challenge from Gonzalez, Agudelo struck the bouncing ball with the outside of his right foot past goalkeeper Kasey Keller for the first score of his MLS career. The goal scoring play combined a veteran’s savvy and composure with a world-class finish.
On the goal, Agudelo said, “It was exactly what I was trying to do. I noticed that they had a high line and the defenders were biting a bit behind me when I was trending towards the ball so I just cut and looked for the long ball. It was a perfect ball by Teemu, couldn’t have been played better.”
The praise from Red Bulls manager Hans Backe was not limited to the goal scored by Agudelo.
“He surprised me today,” Backe said. “I was very happy with the decisions he made today. I don’t think he lost the ball much today – he played safe.”
The goal came before a big week for Agudelo, who now leaves to join the United States national team to prepare for Saturday’s friendly at the New Meadowlands Stadium against Argentina.
Agudelo, in search of his third cap with the national team, is quickly earning a reputation as a game-changer. Last November in just his second league start, he assisted on the game’s lone goal in a 3-1 playoff loss to San Jose. Then a couple of weeks later, Agudelo scored a goal in his debut with the national team in a 1-0 win over South Africa.
Agudelo, who just turned 18 years at the conclusion of last season, is fast becoming a man and potentially, a fixture for the national team and head coach Bob Bradley.
“I don’t know how it’s going to work out,” Agudelo said of the United States roster for Saturday. “There’s some big names. Everyone knows that when a forward scores a goal, there’s some momentum going into the next game.”
Kristian R. Dyer can be followed at twitter.com/KristianRDyer