February 19, 2012
EYE ON THE OLYMPICS
Agudelo: 'I don't know if I've ever been more excited about anything than this'
By Michael Lewis
|Juan Agudelo on the Olympics: "It's actually one of the things that I thought about the most about this year."
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
UPPER MONTCLAIR, N.J. -- Juan Agudelo has two motivations over the coming months, one short term, the other long term.
Naturally, he wants to come back from an ankle injury that shelved him for a month during the off-season and pre-season. That hurt him on two fronts -- to impress European teams with his ability and to get ready for the Major League Soccer season.
Later on this year, Agudelo is looking towards the Olympics. Of course, the United States must qualify first, but the possibility of playing in England this summer has been a major motivating force for the 19-year-old Red Bulls striker.
"It's actually one of the things that I thought about the most about this year," Agudelo said at Montclair State University on Friday. "Just from the things that people say from their past Olympics, finding out that it's in London, where soccer is just going to be the main thing, it's something that I think about every day. I'm extremely excited. I don't know if Iíve ever been more excited about anything than this."
Agudelo has spoken to the likes of former Olympians Jozy Altidore, Freddy Adu and Michael Bradley, who represented the red, white and blue in Beijing in 2008.
"All those guys, they spoke very highly of how much fun they had, how they could have done better and stuff like that. They were just really happy about the way they were saying it. It sounded like somewhere where I would want to be and would want to make memories.
To make the team for qualifying -- which is set for Nashville, Tenn. from March 22-26 and Kansas City, Kansas from March 31-April 2 -- Agudelo has to get fit from his ankle injury. He was sidelined for some three weeks with an ankle injury.
A 10-day training game for the U.S. Under-23 team began on Sunday and will run through Feb. 29, when the Americans host their Mexican counterparts in an international friendly in Frisco, Texas.
"Ankle-wise I feel like 98 percent," he said. "I do need to work on my fitness because I've been away for a while. It's actually surprisingly really good. Today we did a test. I did really well actually. It must have been all of the rehab I have been doing, being on bikes, boxing, just to keep my cardio up."
"It kills you, man," he said.
Agudelo finally got back on the pitch for 15 minutes in the Red Bulls' 1-1 tie with Estudiantes Tecos on Tuesday. He replaced Jhonny Arteaga in the 75th minute
"It was good, good to finally get back," Agudelo said. "To recover from an injury that took a month or three weeks long it was really boring. Finally to get onto the field, it felt good."
Agudelo said rehab "really frustrating. I realized that I need to play to be happy. When I started playing my mood started to get better. It was tough. Watching your teammates play and just wishing that you were there it was tough to watch. Just being on the bike, just pedaling nowhere."
He obviously is hopeful for more.
So is the coaching staff.
"He was very happy because we didn't think he could play anything in Mexico because of his injury," Red Bulls assistant coach Jan Halvor Halvorsen said. "But he has done well the last four-five days in the camp. He didn't feel anything. The medical staff said that we could actually play him for 20 minutes in the last game. So he was very happy with that. He's back from the injury."
The timing of Agudelo's injury could not have come at a worse time for a young player who trained with VfB Stuttgart in Germany and Liverpool in England during the off-season.
Asked if he thought the injury took away any overseas possibilities, Agudelo replied, "Don't believe so. Maybe, I'm not sure."