Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Juan Agudelo, 18, making rapid strides with U.S. soccer team

Juan Agudelo, left, in Tuesday’s Gold Cup match against Canada, has two goals in just five appearances for the national team.

Getty Images

Juan Agudelo, left, in Tuesday’s Gold Cup match against Canada, has two goals in just five appearances for the national team.

TAMPA — A little more than a year ago, Juan Agudelo wasn't even a blip on most U.S. soccer fans' radar. Today, Agudelo could score the goal that helps the Yanks into the quarterfinals of the Gold Cup.

Agudelo and his teammates will try to win their second 2011 Gold Cup game in as many matches tonight when the United States takes on Panama at Raymond James Stadium in Group C pool play. Canada and Guadeloupe meet at 6 in the first half of the doubleheader.

"This will be my first time playing against (Panama)," Agudelo said. "From the youth level, when we played Caribbean teams it can be tricky at times because of their pace and work ethic."

Agudelo, 18, has energized the U.S. fan base in his brief time with the team. The national team's recent difficulty scoring goals from the striker spot has been well-documented. At the 2010 World Cup, U.S. strikers produced no goals.

"This past year has been good, and I'm really happy," said Agudelo, a native of Barnegat, N.J., and a rising star with the New York Red Bulls of MLS.

Agudelo made an immediate splash against South Africa in November 2010, scoring the winner in his first appearance with the U.S. team. With that strike, the then 17-year-old became the youngest player to score for the senior national team.

"I feel like the path I'm going on … I wouldn't have picked a better path," Agudelo said. "I'm just concentrating on the future now. I don't like to look back and think this may have happened too fast."

Agudelo also got the equalizer in a 1-1 draw against Argentina in March and looked impressive in his Gold Cup debut, helping the Americans to a 2-0 win against Canada on Tuesday.

"I thought (the attack against Canada) was really good at times," Agudelo said. "We're looking for more of those chances against Panama."

The United States' biggest weaknesses are Agudelo's greatest strengths — speed and creativity. Strikers Jozy Altidore and former national team star Brian McBride acted more as target forwards over the past decade, using their size and strength. Forward Charlie Davies infused some needed speed but hasn't seen any national team action since being severely injured during an October 2009 car crash.

"(I bring) some pace up front and some strength," Agudelo said. "Just different qualities that help me help the team get points."

A victory against Panama all but assures the United States of advancing out of Group C and into the June 18-19 quarterfinals. The winner and runnerup in each of the three pools, plus the two best third-place teams, reach the knockout round. Panama has yet to defeat the United States, going 0-8-2 all time. But that doesn't mean it has been a cakewalk.

The United States and Panama played to a scoreless tie in the 2005 Gold Cup final, with the Americans winning 3-1 in penalty kicks. And the U.S. team knocked Los Canaleros out in the 2007 and 2009 Gold Cup quarterfinals with narrow 2-1 wins.

"Panama's an organized team and a physically talented team," U.S. coach Bob Bradley said. "We've learned from the 2007 and 2009 games that they're a team you always have to play well against."

>>Fast facts

About Gold Cup

The biennial tournament crowns a champion in the region governed by CONCACAF (North and Central American and Caribbean). The third and final pool play game for the U.S. team is against Guadeloupe on June 14 in Kansas City, Kan. The winner qualifies for the 2013 Confederations Cup, a tuneup for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

Juan Agudelo, 18, making rapid strides with U.S. soccer team 06/10/11 [Last modified: Friday, June 10, 2011 11:15pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Cannon Fodder podcast: Bucs in a different place than the Jaguars right now


    Greg Auman recaps Thursday night's preseason game, a 12-8 win for the Bucs in Jacksonville, from Jameis Winston's strong first half with one play he'd like back to the defense dominating in the first half to the Jaguars being in a very different place as a franchise than the Bucs are right now in our latest Bucs Cannon …

    Jameis Winston attempts a pass during a preseason game against the Jaguars Thursday at EverBank Field in Jacksonville.  [Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images]
  2. Bucs' Mike Evans motivated by deep ball that got away


    JACKSONVILLE — Bucs receiver Mike Evans had an efficient half of football Thursday night, with six ball thrown his way and five catches for 57 yards in Tampa Bay's 12-8 preseason win over the Jaguars.

    Bucs wide receiver Mike Evans (13) reaches for a pass as cornerback Ryan Smith (29) defends during training camp earlier this month at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  3. Gerald McCoy: Bucs defense wanted to 'set the tone' vs. Jaguars


    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs' starting defense held the Jaguars to a total of 1 rushing yard on 7 carries in the first half of Thursday's 12-8 win.

    And they were disappointed.

    Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy, right, watches practice alongside outside linebacker Lavonte David, left, earlier this month in Tampa. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  4. The Florida Gators' case for QB Luke Del Rio


    GAINESVILLE — It took three years and two transfers for Florida's Luke Del Rio to become a starting quarterback.

    Florida Gators quarterback Luke Del Rio (14) warms up next to quarterback Austin Appleby (12) before the game against the North Texas Mean Green on Saturday September 17, 2016 at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, Florida. Final score was Florida 32 North Texas 0. (Monica Herndon, Times)
  5. Marc Topkin's takeaways from Thursday's Rays-Jays game

    The Heater

    RHP Tommy Hunter has been so good emerging as the top set-up man for closer Alex Colome with a dazzling run, but twice in five days he has given up a game-losing homer, Sunday to Cleveland's Austin Jackson and Thursday to Toronto's Justin Smoak.