LISBON, Portugal — Tuesday marks a fresh start for the US national team after missing out on the 2018 World Cup and 24-year-old Juan Agudelo was hopeful all along that he’d be part of the revamped roster for the match against Portugal (3:45 pm ET | FS1, UniMas, UDN).
“I knew it was a camp where there was going to be a lot of youth,” the New England Revolution forward said before Sunday’s training session at Lisbon’s Cidade do Futebol. “With me still 24 years old, I thought I had OK chances, because 24 is fairly young. I knew the intentions of the training staff during this camp and I knew my chances could be good.”
It’s been an up-and-down year for Agudelo, who started off the MLS season with a bang, scoring six goals in the first nine matches. But injury and a drop in form put him in and out of the lineup for the rest of the season as the Revolution missed out on the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs.
Now, Agudelo is looking to end 2017 on a high note.
“We have a long break from the MLS now, so to finish off the season on a high is very important,” he said. “It is the last game I’m going to play in 2017.”
It will also be his first chance to impress his new head coach Brad Friedel, who was formally introduced by the Revolution on Monday. Agudelo knows that for him to be the force that many expect him to be in MLS, it all starts with putting together a full season and avoiding the injury bug.
“Understanding my body and knowing how these things may have happened and trying to avoid them and prevent them,” said Agudelo, who despite only being 24, has been in MLS since 2010. “Consistency is important.”
Agudelo (26 caps) would seem to have a good chance to start vs. third-ranked Portugal, given the relative inexperience of this US team with the likes of Dom Dwyer (three caps), CJ Sapong (two caps) and Josh Sargent (uncapped) vying for minutes in the attack.
Meanwhile, Agudelo first burst onto the scene in a November friendly seven years ago when, as a 17-year-old, he became the youngest player in the modern era to score for the US, in a 1-0 win over South Africa.
The experience he’s gathered since then gives him a “natural responsibility” to be one of the leaders and tone-setters of the team, along with veteran Alejandro Bedoya.
“Maybe some guys look to see what I do, because I’ve been to a lot of camps before,” he said. “But football is football. Once you get onto the field and start training, it is similar.”