PHOENIX – Juan Agudelo spent much of 2011 where he least wanted to be: on the sideline.
The teen sensation striker was on the New York Red Bulls bench for much of last season, starting just 12 of the 28 MLS games (including a postseason match) in which he played.
But with his confidence nearly as high as his potential after successful offseason training stints with European clubs VfB Stuttgart and Liverpool, Agudelo knows what he is capable of and exactly what he wants.
"I want to play every minute of every game," Agudelo told reporters this past weekend from US national team training camp at the Reach 11 complex in northern Phoenix. "I just want to get more experience."
He may get as much as he can handle in what could be a very busy 2011. At 19, Agudelo can play with the US Under-23 team in CONCACAF’s Olympic qualifying tournament in March, potentially the Summer Games in London in July and August, and likely see time with the senior national team in World Cup qualifying from June through October.
Then there's breaking into the Red Bulls starting 11 – and staying there.
"I was just using [last season] as a stepping stone, making myself better and work harder every day just so things aren't just handed to me on a silver platter," Agudelo said. "I want to keep on learning. I feel like I'm doing pretty good right now. Experience is key. I think I’m earning good amount of experience for my young age. I just want to keep doing what I'm doing and staying focused and grounded."
Agudelo has looked just that in the first few days of this January camp, showing off a nice touch in a four-vs.-four session last Friday where he was paired with Heath Pearce, Benny Feilhaber and A.J. DeLaGarza, and again in an eight-vs.-eight exercise on Saturday.
"I'm learning the aspect of playing with your teammates," Agudelo said, "and understanding more each and every day what the coaches want out of you and building from there."