FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- New England coach Jay Heaps stands off to the side of the training field and rattles off the reasons why Juan Agudelo is playing such an important part in the Revolution’s recent resurgence.
The goals matter, but Heaps sees more than just four tallies in the past four matches in all competitions. Agudelo is exerting his influence with his ability on the ball, his diligence off it, and his willingness to find ways to combine with his teammates.
The examples -- a tidy bit of work to prompt Diego Fagundez’s third goal against New York City FC, a timely intervention to spark the critical opener at Montreal last weekend -- flow quickly. They are the underpinnings behind Agudelo’s return to his best form.
“That’s the kind of stuff he’s doing," Heaps told MLSsoccer.com this week. "He’s keeping everything alive, he’s hungry and then he’s getting himself in good positions to do his stuff, which is very creative and attack-oriented football."
Agudelo -- who finished No. 17 in this year's 24 Under 24 list -- embraces those points now. He is in the midst of another interrupted season after an untimely MCL injury back in June ended a previous bright spell. He understands his recent resurgence is as much about toiling earnestly to prove his worth as it is about producing in front of goal.
“The key thing is to stay in form and healthy and keep staying aware,” Agudelo said. “I feel like I’m the most aware I’ve ever been on the field.”
It is a profitable development for Agudelo and for his teammates, as Agudelo’s work rate fits neatly in the Revs’ revamped 4-4-2 setup. The recent tactical switch provides freedom for Diego Fagundez, Lee Nguyen and Kelyn Rowe to dart forward from midfield and supplies Agudelo with the latitude to mine spaces between the lines.
The corresponding effects ripple throughout the side with the overall shape benefiting from more consistent and cohesive pressing and the production in the final third on the rise.
Revolution forward Kei Kamara cites Agudelo’s ability and his penchant for observing the game on the sidelines as an integral piece in the young veteran's recent run of form. Agudelo's torrid spell also provides more room for Kamara -- and vice versa, particularly when defenders collapse on the established target man inside the penalty area -- to roam.
“It’s good,” Kamara said. “There are a lot of options. That’s what we want. It’s not just supposed to be focused on one guy, saying that’s where all of the goals will come from. When we can balance it, it makes things a lot easier. It’s a team play, not individual play, which is really good.”
Those collective and personal strides provide a sturdy platform as the Revs prepare for a vital match at Columbus on Sunday (7 pm ET, FS1 in US | MLS LIVE in Canada). If the Revs continue along this path, then Agudelo believes they can secure the desired postseason berth and sustain their recent success.
“I feel like the sky’s the limit right now,” Agudelo said. “We’ve won the last three league games. We just have to keep going. I feel like this group is capable of reaching a very high seeding in the playoffs.”