U.S. Forward, New York Red Bulls Academy Product Reflects on Academy’s Influence, Professional Environment
FRISCO, Texas – It is hard to believe that U.S. Men’s National Team forward and former New York Red Bulls Academy player Juan Agudelo was a member of the Development Academy less than two years ago, with the Chivas USA forward having last played for the Red Bulls’ U-17/18 team in 2009-10. With 15 caps and two international goals to his credit, Agudelo has made great strides after building a solid foundation through his time in the Academy.
As the Development Academy Playoffs get into full swing at the FC Dallas Stadium Complex in Frisco, Agudelo is regarded as a shining example of the benefits of the Development Academy program. He was the first Academy player to earn a cap for the senior National Team, scoring in his debut match in November of 2010 against South Africa.
“It doesn’t seem like that long ago,” Agudelo said following the June 23 MLS match between his Chivas USA side and host FC Dallas. “It’s been two years since I was with the Academy team, and I’m just happy to be in the position that I’m in right now, just trying to improve every single day.”
The 19-year-old Agudelo has a continually budding future at both the professional level and in international competition, and he credits the Academy’s professional qualities as a helpful tool toward developing his game.
“Being in the Academy definitely helped me because that’s where I got a little bit of a head start into the professional environment,” Agudelo said. “You really are treated like a professional when you’re in the Academy. You have more responsibilities and it gets serious. That prepared me.”
Agudelo pinpoints U-17/18 head coach Paul O’Donnell as one of his key influences during his Academy days. O’Donnell’s 2011-12 team enters the upcoming Academy Playoffs as the Liberty Division champion with a 9-1-0 division record.
“There have been a lot of people who have helped refine my game,” Agudelo said. “In the Academy with the New York Red Bulls, there was the coaching staff and the director that helped me a lot. Paul O’Donnell was a coach. He was actually here at the [Chivas USA/FC Dallas game on Saturday]. Those are the people who helped me strive to be more professional than I was. Maybe I was a little bit immature when I was in the Academy, so I got serious and I became focused on the game.”
Agudelo is now among a growing group of Academy alumni who are making an impact both in MLS and internationally.
“It’s definitely great to see a bunch of players that you have seen come up through the Academy and develop a presence on the professional level,” Agudelo said. “It’s just awesome because now that we’ve got this thing going, younger players are having a chance to get seen by the professional teams.”
This year marks the fourth edition of the Academy Playoffs, leading up to the fifth Academy Finals Week from July 16-23 in Houston.
“To all the kids taking advantage of the Academy and this opportunity, I would just say to try and improve every single day and every single game,” Agudelo said. “Play like it’s your last and keep practicing because you love the game.”