CHIVAS: Agudelo has room to grow
CARSON -- Chivas USA has had its share of legends and big stars, most of them -- Claudio Suarez, Ramon Ramirez, even Francisco Palencia and John O'Brien -- near or at the ends of their careers.
Juan Agudelo is something else: a superstar in the making, and his Goats debut in Saturday night's SuperClasico victory over the Galaxy could go down as one of the signpost events in club annals.
The tall, talented teen with bearing beyond his years did nothing spectacular and a whole lot of things really well in his first start with his new club, playing a key role setting up Jose Erik Correa's penalty kick and showing flashes of what he, Correa and Miller Bolaņos -- and Juan Pablo Angel, too, perhaps -- can achieve once they're all on the same page.
“I think Juan had a good debut,” coach Robin Fraser said after Chivas (4-6-1) ended a 12-game winless streak against their cross-stadium rival. “He’s a player that wants to be on the ball, he’s a very attack-minded player, he’s got very solid feet. You can see there are times when he wanted the ball, he wants to run at people, he wants to make things happen, and I thought his impact was immediate.
“We’re extremely excited to have him, and we’re extremely excited to watch him develop. He’s very special.”
Agudelo, whose excitement was such that he experienced “probably one of the most anxious feelings that I’ve had before a game ever,” was happy with how things went:
- “I felt great, and at times I wasn't able to find the spacing [with teammates] that I wanted, but I think that it's something that over time I'll improve, knowing the positions and holes with this team.”
- “[My chemistry with Correa] is going great. We're both Colombian, so we speak Spanish to each other, and I think that connection of South America is working.”
- “[Fraser's system] suits me really well. Just with my height [6-foot-1], I felt like crosses to the far post, I was dangerous then, and I think that moving forward that could be something that could help us get some goals. I feel like sometimes with my heading that I’ve got more power on it, and in this type of system, I love it that the coach encourages freedom.”
The 19-year-old, Colombian born striker, who departed Sunday to join the U.S. national team's Florida preparations for next month's start to its World Cup qualifying campaign, has impressed in international play but didn't fit into the New York Red Bulls' Eurocentric approach, and his trade Thursday to Chivas has rejuventated his young career. The Goats are a far better fit stylistically, culturally and in terms of opportunities to grow.
Fraser was asked during his postgame news conference why Chivas is the better fit.
“I don’t know what sort of environment that New York could offer him,” Fraser said, “but we can offer him is certainly a lot of experience in terms of our staff [three former U.S. national-teamers and a World Cup veteran from New Zealand] and how we think a young player should be developed, the things that he needs to look for and the things that he needs to continue to get better at.
“We look at him as a player that is really just scratching the surface in terms of his potential, and his ceiling is very high.”
One of the tools in that development is Angel, the 36-year-old Colombian striker who was left on the bench Saturday night in a three-forward alignment, coming on as a second-half sub -- a glimpse, it would appear, of his future.
Angel worked with Agudelo when both were with the Red Bulls in 2010, and he was excited to see the teen's Chivas debut go so well.
“He’s going to be great for us,” Angel said. “You can tell today that he still needs to get more games, but he’s physical, he’s young and has ability. He’s going to be very important for us in the future. ...
“At the end of the day, we’re here to help him, and we need him to do well,” Angel said. “I think everyone expects him to be a good player for the sport in this country, and it’s important for him to get games. The more games that he gets, the more confidence he’s going to have. But we need to be sure that we develop him in the right way, telling him the right things and keeping him grounded -- but he’s an intelligent player so he’s going to be fine.”
WORTH NOTING: Center back Danny Califf, acquired Thursday from Philadelphia, also enjoyed a strong debut, leading the backline in a shutout. He said he “didn’t feel uncomfortable,” that “it seemed to kind of click into place tonight” and that teaming with Rauwshan McKenzie was a treat. “He's a beast ...,” Califf said. “If this is the first sign of things to come, then he’s going to make my life pretty easy.” ... Right back James Riley declared Chivas' performance “our best overall game.” ... How good a finisher is Correa? He scored an exquisite goal to tie Montreal last weekend and followed with a superb strike to earn the penalty, ripping a volley into former Chivas defender David Junior Lopes' arm. ... Defensive midfielder Oswaldo Minda's presence was huge in his return from a yellow-card suspension, but he took another yellow, for spilling Marcelo Sarvas outside the Chivas box in the 36th minute. Two more and he's suspended again. ... Chivas plays at New York on Wednesday, at home against Seattle on Saturday, then has until June 16 for its next MLS game. The Goats will face the L.A. Blues or Ventura County Fusion in a U.S. Open Cup third-round game May 29 with a potential fourth-round game a week later.