Juan Agudelo Is the Real Deal, but the US Must Be Careful in How They Handle Him
If you have been following the US National team lately then you have surely heard of Juan Agudelo. Agudelo scored his first international goal in the Nelson Mandela challenge back in November against South Africa. He was only 17 years old. On Saturday, coming on as a second half sub, Agudelo scored the equalizer against Argentina. He now has two goals in three games, and he drew a penalty in his other match for the US National team.
The media is now doing one of the most interesting things with Agudelo, who has just turned 18. They are doing their best to hype him up, while at the same time trying not to hype him at all. Many people are annointing him the next big thing, simply by saying "we can't annoint him the next big thing."
But Agudelo has become the best striker the United States has. His intrduction completely changed the Argentina match, and his link play actually made Jozy Altidore look like a competent striker for the first time in a long time.
Nobody is arguing against the potential that Agudelo has, but people are afraid that he will flame out similar to the way Jozy Altidore, Eddie Johnson, and Freddy Adu all did.
The US needs to be careful with how they treat Agudelo. The other strikers all went to Europe far too soon and stopped playing matches regularly.
The best solution for Agudelo would be to stay in the MLS until he is at least 22 years old, meaning another five seasons for the teen sensation. The US will need to make sure the MLS is on board with this plan and that they won't sell him to a European club no matter how much money is offered.
Playing in the MLS for another five years will allow Agudelo be given consistent first team football. This will help his development and he will be given national team appearances against tougher competition along the way.
When Agudelo is 20 or 21 years old, a Donovan type 10 week loan move to England would be a good idea. However, instead of going to the Premier League, he should be sent one level down to the Championship. There are more games at that level, which will give him more football, and it will still be able to test him against tougher opposition. This should allow Agudelo a chance to keep developing and keep improving his game, without having him flame out like the other young strikers the US has had in the past.
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