Sunday, March 20, 2011

Agudelo Gives Fans Taste Of The Future

If Juan Agudelo's goal against South Africa in a recent international friendly was a sign of things to come for the national team, then his solo effort against Seattle on Saturday was a highly auspicious start to what will be a great Red Bulls career.

All the build up to the New York Red Bulls' opening match against the Seattle Sounders was surrounded around star duo Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez. The pair had flattered to deceive for much of last season, but the hope around the Red Bulls camp was that this year, with a full season to look forward to, the pair would be able to make the greatest impact possible.

With both Henry and Marquez starting, the New York Red Bulls got off to fine start, with a flurry of corners inside the first fifteen minutes. However, the defining moment of the half was to come moments later, as Juan Agudelo was upended in the box, giving Thierry Henry the chance to open his 2011 MLS account. As Thierry Henry began his run up, it seemed impossible that the veteran of three World Cups would miss, but, it was another veteran, Kasey Keller, who denied the Frenchman.

With the half winding down and Seattle growing in confidence it seemed as though Henry's miss might prove more costly then it had first seemed, and Fredy Montero was denied twice by the superb Greg Sutton in the closing stages of the half.

The second half started much like the first, with the Red Bulls moving the ball well from back to front, and it seemed like only a matter of time before Hans Baake's side broke the deadlock.

When that goal finally came, it was from the foot of youngster Agudelo who, latching onto a brilliant long ball from debutant Teemu Tainino, showed superb strength to hold off his defender and smash a shot with the outside of his foot into the back of the net. Red Bull Arena erupted in celebration of that goal, and as Agudelo wheeled away, sheer jubilation written on his face, you could tell that this was only the beginning of what will surely be a sparkling season for the eighteen year old.

Still, with that one-nil lead intact, the Red Bulls needed to hold on, and with only a minute left on the clock, they came very close to conceding an equalizer. Having won a free kick twenty yards out, Seattle turned to inspirational forward Fredy Montero, who arrowed a powerful shot towards goal which Greg Sutton could only parry out into the crowd of players waiting for a rebound. The ball fell for midfielder Lamar Neagle, but the substitute could only send his shot over the bar, and into a crowd of relieved Red Bulls supporters.

Knowing that they had dodged a rather large bullet, New York were satisfied with keeping the ball for the last few minutes, allowing the clock to run down, and for goal scorer Agudelo to bask in the glow of one of his greatest career accomplishments to date.

As the final whistle blew, Red Bull Arena rose and applauded rising star Juan Agudelo, not to mention a terrific defense, anchored by the legendary Rafa Marquez and last year's rookie of the year, Tim Ream, but superbly protected by new signing Teemu Tainio. Out of that trio, Tainio in particular looked solid, and his ability to hit accurate long passes, as demonstrated with his assist for Agudelo, should prove pivotal in the Red Bulls' title charge.

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