FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It took Juan Agudelo an extra week to properly prepare for his New England Revolution debut.
The former Chivas USA forward really wanted to make his debut just days after his arrival. His balky left hamstring and his paucity of training sessions with his new teammates prompted Revolution coach Jay Heaps to leave him out of the squad for the 1-1 draw with New York on May 11.
Agudelo made up for lost time when he replaced the injured Ryan Guy (calf) in the first half of Saturday's 2-0 victory at Houston. He picked up menacing positions and started the process of adjusting to his third team in little more than a year – and even scored his first Revs goal, after he was credited on Friday for the 84th-minute goal he created that was originally ruled a Ricardo Clark own-goal.
“I thought it was really important to start off and get that first game in,” Agudelo told MLSsoccer.com. “Coming in and not being able to play against New York, I was pretty upset. But it felt good when I came in and I did everything I could to help the team.”
Those contributions – and the one-match ban incurred by Dimitry Imbongo in the same match – may have placed Agudelo in line for his full Revolution debut against Toronto FC on Saturday night (7:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
“I'm definitely in here training, trying to make my case,” Agudelo said. “We'll see what happens on the weekend.”
Heaps praised Agudelo for his performance against the Dynamo without naming him as a certain starter for the Reds' visit. Jerry Bengtson, Chad Barrett and Saër Sène will all hope to replace Imbongo in the first XI and Heaps suggested all four of the potential candidates can fill the void left up front.
“There's opportunity there, though,” Heaps said. “Demi's done a nice job of creating a niche for himself within our group because of the things he's doing in the buildup. He holds the ball. He's strong. We need that. When we play well, we have that. And Jerry, Chad, Juan and Saër, those guys can definitely fill that role.”
Heaps must also compensate for the projected absences of Guy and Stephen McCarthy (left Achilles strain) and the potential concerns surrounding Clyde Simms (questionable – right MCL strain) when he names his lineup.
Kelyn Rowe (questionable – right calf tightness) could return on the right side of midfield and slide Diego Fagundez to the left if he is deemed fit enough to start. A.J. Soares (right hamstring strain) returned to full training this week, but he may not recover in time to replace McCarthy in central defense. Soares' continued absence would likely prompt Heaps to use Darrius Barnes there instead. Scott Caldwell and Kalifa Cissé offer the primary options if Simms isn't available for selection.