You know you’re the team’s spark when your coach introduces you before the 60th minute. Such was the case for Juan Agudelo on Saturday night.
With the team only recording two shots on target at that point, New England Revolution coach Jay Heaps inserted Agudelo for Charlie Davies in the 55th minute. Agudelo had contributed two goals and one assist in his previous six outings, so Heaps hoped that the 22-year-old would be able to ice the game by grabbing the night's second goal. He ultimately didn’t, but it wasn’t due to a lack of trying.
The Revolution striker offered three shots, including two on target. In the 77th minute, Agudelo dangerously rediected a Keyln Rowe cross, only to be denied by goalkeeper Andre Blake. Two minutes later, he rattled the crossbar with a header. Seconds after that Agudelo had an acrobatic volley pushed away by Blake.
While he didn’t get onto the scoresheet, Agudelo’s performance was still heralded by Heaps.
"I think Juan has been excellent the last three or four times we’ve put him on the field," Heaps said. "I was excited to get him onto the field tonight."
Asked if Agudelo’s performance could translate into a spot in the starting XI, Heaps remained coy. The gaffer noted there’s a lot to be considered when comparing Agudelo with incumbent starter Charlie Davies. These players have different attributes that shine in different circumstances.
"Charlie [and] Juan are very different in how they play and that’s a good thing, to have a couple different options of how to beat teams," Heaps said. "In terms of Juan I’m real excited where he is right now."
And there’s plenty to be excited about as Agudelo is hitting his stride just in time for playoffs. Once burdened with a nagging knee injury, Agudelo is now fully healthy and working hard on a daily basis.
While this workrate might eventually earn him a spot in the starting lineup, Agudelo is simply focused on helping his team.
"To be honest—I’m not just saying this saying this—but I really just want to help this team get to the playoffs, get in a good position in the playoffs," Agudelo said when asked about his role as a reserve. "I think that’s what’s most important."