FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – But can he do it consistently?
It’s the question that has lingered over Juan Agudelo’s promising career since he turned pro as a bright young 17-year-old back in 2010. The query has hung like a cloud through spells with the New York Red Bulls, Chivas USA and the New England Revolution in MLS, and with FC Utrecht in the Netherlands. It’s a topic of conversation every time the now-24-year-old is called into U.S. National Team camp.
But in recent months, Agudelo has provided an emphatic answer.
Currently tied for second in MLS with six goals in nine appearances, Agudelo has already registered two multi-goal games in 2017. But that sterling form actually began late in 2016, when he finished the campaign with six goals and three assists in his last eight appearances in all competitions.
All told, that’s 12 goals and three assists in 17 appearances for Agudelo.
There’s no magic number of consecutive performances to define “consistency,” but by just about every measure, Agudelo has been a model of stability for the past eight months.
“On a personal level, I feel very good,” Agudelo said after bagging two more goals in the Revolution’s 3-3 draw with Seattle Sounders FC last weekend. “I feel like I’m able to help my teammates, whether it’s holding the ball and keeping possession, or scoring goals.”
Goals are the easiest way to measure Agudelo’s consistency, but head coach Jay Heaps assesses the forward’s contributions on a deeper level. Assigned to play as both a striker and in a more withdrawn role throughout the past eight months, Agudelo has shined regardless of his position.
Agudelo’s duties involve pressuring the opponent’s backline, holding the ball with his back to goal, creating both space and chances for teammates, and yes – scoring goals.
“His performances have been thorough, meaning 90 minutes or however long he’s in the game,” said Heaps. “They’re consistent throughout. His touches are increasing.
“The most important thing is that he’s versatile … Sometimes it’s a little bit of a different role where he’s got to come back and defend, or he’s higher up the field holding the ball. We’ve asked him to do a couple of different things and he’s done each of those really well. He’s been consistent across all facets of his game.”
Agudelo’s abilities have always been unquestioned – from his Thierry-Henry-esque goal against D.C. United in 2011 to his back-heel lob against the Chicago Fire in 2013 – but he’s spent the past seven years trying to harness that ability inside a consistent, 90-minute player.
Here and now, in 2017, Agudelo may well be doing it.
“Hopefully I can keep this run going,” said Agudelo, who is relatively uncomfortable speaking about himself, regularly credits his successes to his teammates, and puts team objectives above all else. “The most important thing is to make the playoffs.”