MLS: New York Red Bulls' Juan Agudelo the Man To Put USA Soccer on the Map

Jake Hughes@_jjh91Contributor IIIMay 17, 2011

Juan Agudelo is exciting audiences in North America
Juan Agudelo is exciting audiences in North AmericaDrew Hallowell/Getty Images

Freddy Adu, Jozy Altidore and Eddie Johnson; three forwards the American media once touted to make an impact on the world stage. The hype for some was such that sports giant Nike became heavily involved, but almost 10 years later they're still scraping the egg from their faces.

However unfulfilled these promises proved to be, that hasn't stopped media on both sides of the pond adding fuel to the debate that the MLS has once again uncovered another gem fit for the world stage.

His name is Juan Agudelo, an 18-year-old Colombian-turned New Yorker, who has since pledged his footballing allegiance to the country that adopted him as an 8-year-old boy with the most humble of beginnings.

Still living with his mother, it's hard to believe that Agudelo's career has taken off as quick as it has; the youngster has already appeared for the national team on four occasions, netting twice, the first of which set a record as the youngest scorer for the USA, and the second coming against Lionel Messi’s Argentina.

Agudelo followed a different path to that taken by the majority of his compatriots. His natural ability prompted MLS side New York Red Bulls to sign him straight from their youth academy rather than have him go through the college sports route, a rare commodity in American sports.

There were rumours the youngster was close to signing with Colombian side Millonarios, but the Red Bulls battled hard to keep hold of their prized asset. Their desperation to keep hold of this prodigious talent is paying dividends. What has impressed fans and pundits alike is the fact that a young striker has managed to stand out in an attack-minded team boasting the talents of Thierry Henry, among others.

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After making only seven appearances for the New York side, Agudelo has notched two goals. However, it was his second club goal for the team that drew attention from media worldwide.

Against the Red Bull’s bitter rivals DC United late last month, Agudelo completed a 4-0 rout with a deft flick-come-volley which shocked DC's home support into silence and then quiet recognition. It was a goal fit for Henry's scrapbook and resembled the Arsenal legend's famous volley against Manchester United in 2000.

Inevitably, comparisons are quickly being made between the two. It is certainly too early for that but you cannot discount Henry's influence on the youngster. Agudelo seems just as humble and grounded as Henry, spending lots of time talking to his fans on Twitter.

Unlike Adu, Altidore and Johnson, Agudelo appears more than content to stay in the CONCACAF region to develop naturally like Bolton’s Stuart Holden, Fulham's Clint Dempsey and talk-of-the-town Manchester United starlet Javier Hernandez

Adu was once the world's most talked-about young prospect, the man Nike backed to the hilt. Now he is plying his trade on loan at lowly Turkish second division side Caykur Rizespor. Altidore, similarly, has failed to impress at Villarreal and formerly on loan at Hull City and is on loan at Bursaspor in the same country. 

Of course, adjusting to life abroad can be hard, more so at such a young age when so few hail from the same place as you. On that you can argue the three who have fallen by the wayside all moved abroad too soon.

Yet the feeling is that players as good as Agudelo need a platform better than the MLS. This summer's preseason friendly at Arsenal's Emirates Cup may prove to be a step in that direction. A loan move to Europe may then quickly follow suit.

Regardless, Americans young and old are hoping New York Red Bulls and MLS pull out all the stops to keep hold of their young prodigy. By doing so, it is hoped they ensure his development continues on the same trajectory as fellow Latino Hernandez. If it does, remember the name....