Teen shows Americans he has knack for finding net

Juan Agudelo has a knack for finding the net. The 18-year-old

American soccer sensation also insists his early success won’t be

going to his head.

His parents won’t allow it.

”I live with my parents and come home after practice every

time, eat a home cooked meal just as if I was coming back from

school,” Agudelo said. ”That stuff just keeps me concentrated and

just good family, good parents to be around, especially during this

time. I’m so young, and they’re helping me a lot right now.”

He needs them very much now.

Agudelo has scored two goals in his first three international

games for the United States, his second leading to a 1-1 draw

against Argentina on Saturday night. Now he’s set to play again

Tuesday night when the United States plays Paraguay at LP Field in

another friendly exhibition.

He may get more playing time Tuesday.

Bob Bradley has only 21 players after forward Edson Buddle

returned to FC Ingolstadt, and the coach said Monday there will be

some lineup changes because he wants to see some different players.

They have been trying to bring Agudelo along slowly. If Agudelo

doesn’t start against Paraguay, Bradley said that opportunity will

come soon if he keeps playing this well.

”But hopefully he keeps putting pressure on us by playing well,

showing good things in training by scoring goals to make a case for

himself that he should be a guy on the field right from the

beginning,” Bradley said.

Agudelo’s scoring ability is what makes the thought of his

future so exciting because the Americans have been searching for a

consistent scorer in international play. The last forwards to score

a goal in a World Cup game were Brian McBride and Landon Donovan –

way back in 2002 against Mexico.

He’s the first player from the U.S. Soccer Development Academy

to play for the U.S. men’s national team, and he became the

youngest American to score in the modern era in a 1-0 win in South

Africa last November. He also started both MLS playoff games for

the New York Red Bulls.

The teenager who has just joined Twitter – (at)jagudelo39 –

would be happy to fill that role but humbly says he’ll do whatever

he can to play for the United States.

”It’d be a pleasure for me to do anyway I could. I would

defend. I would play in the midfield or play forward and score

goals. If that’s what they want me to do, I’d love to step on the

pitch for them,” Agudelo said.

Potential scorers like Freddy Adu seemed to come and go. Eddie

Johnson failed to make an impact after a similar early splash, and

Jozy Altidore struggles to find playing time in Europe though

Bradley noted he’s still young at 21.

That may be why Agudelo’s U.S. teammates caution against

expecting too much too soon from the young man who made the Red

Bulls’ roster late last season while still 17. He just scored his

first MLS career goal March 19.

”There’s been a lot of Juans that have come and gone,”

goalkeeper Tim Howard said. ”There’s been very few guys who have

been able to sustain it, so I think that’s the challenge for us and

for him. But, for us to kind of get around him and be a barrier for

him, and not let you guys pump your heads up too much and with all

the hype.”

Howard said Agudelo has been impressive in training and needs to

keep working hard.

”He’s a young kid and he’s got loads of time. That’s the most

important thing. He’s been fantastic in training and so, he’s got a

lot of confidence for a young kid,” Howard said.

Captain Carlos Bocanegra said Agudelo is off to a good start and

obviously has physical tools.

”But we don’t want to hype him up too much at the moment,”

Bocanegra said. ”He’s still quite young, and he needs to be

integrated slowly into our team. But he’s definitely a player

that’s going to be a big part of this team.”

Defender Jay DeMerit says it’s been fantastic to watch how

Agudelo plays strongly whenever he gets on the field.

”He’s got a quiet confidence about him, and we need him,”

DeMerit said. ”The more guys we have on a squad that can come and

step up and score goals for us and have big performances, the

better we will be as a team.”

NOTES: Rain is in the forecast for Tuesday night’s exhibition

with Paraguay. Donovan said they prefer playing in the rain, which

makes it more exciting. But he said he knows that isn’t what fans

what. … About 21,000 tickets had been sold as of Monday.