FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Juan Agudelo left a rather long shadow when he dropped out of the New England Revolution lineup after sustaining a right knee sprain in the 3-1 defeat to D.C. United in the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup semifinals last month.
The former Chivas USA star made a significant impact when he arrived from southern California in May. He scored three goals in five appearances and sparked the Revs to their best results (10 points in his five matches, 17 points from the 15 other contests) and their best performances (example: the 5-0 demolition of the LA Galaxy on June 2) of the season.
“It's tough,” Revolution coach Jay Heaps told MLSsoccer.com. “We found our best stretch with Agudelo. I think he understood exactly what we were trying to do because it fit his strengths best and it helped the players around him be better.”
Most of those same players would like to see Agudelo return to the field sooner rather than later. The 20-year-old striker likely will not recover in time to feature against D.C. United at the weekend, but the timeline beyond that point remains a bit murky. Heaps said he planned to exercise as much prudence as required to ensure the US international does not accelerate his rehabilitation in order to jump back into the fray.
“It's coming along,” Heaps said. “It's like anything: the training staff has done an excellent job with him. We just want to be cautious. We want to make sure he isn't coming back too soon. He's a young, eager kid. He's only 20. He wants to get back out here. We're managing it right now to get him on the pitch when the staff thinks it is best.”
Heaps and the Revs are managing to muddle through without Agudelo on the field, too. The recent results have dipped a bit from the compelling run cobbled together after Agudelo's insertion into the lineup (2-2-1 in league play since Agudelo injured his knee), but last week's victory at Columbus provides some hope that the recent wobbles will dissipate in short order.
The prospect of playing another match or more without Agudelo leaves Heaps to sift through his potential replacements in search of a solution. He has turned to Chad Barrett, Jerry Bengtson and Dimitry Imbongo to fill the void at different points during this stretch, but the Revs have yet to replicate the displays offered with Agudelo in the lineup.
Heaps expressed faith in the alternatives and suggested the Revs must find the necessary cadence anyways until Agudelo eventually returns to the fold.
“We're trying to find that rhythm,” Heaps said. “Chad has done a nice job coming in. Dimitry has done a nice job coming in. We have battles there. Look, we've won a couple of games and we have to find that consistency game-in, game-out because we're playing the best players that are available now.”