Chelis admits: "I didn't know what I had in Juan Agudelo"
CARSON, Calif. – It might be difficult to fathom since this MLS season is not yet a month old, but Chivas USA forward Juan Agudelo needs one more goal to match his total output from last year.
Last season, Agudelo scored only three league goals in 24 matches, all coming after his trade from the New York Red Bulls.
“It feels very good to be in form,” Agudelo told MLSsoccer.com. “I’m very grateful that now I don’t have any problems. I feel healthy. I’ve been improving my fitness every day and I feel like being fit is helping me a lot.”
To the frustration of Chivas USA manager José Luis “El Chelís” Sánchez Solá, the 20-year-old was never completely healthy in preseason after returning from USMNT training camp with a foot injury.
It led to a request that never materialized.
“I wanted 'El Pescado,'” Chelís told MLSsoccer.com, referring to Carlos Ruiz, who signed with D.C. United in February. “I didn’t know what I had in Agudelo, but by having him, what I asked for doesn’t matter because Agudelo is a model. He is the natural on this team. He’s a player that has many technical qualities. He’s very involved in working to improve others.”
That much was evident in last week’s 4-1 victory against the Chicago Fire when Agudelo found Edgar Mejía with a superb pass that led to a scintillating goal.
“The goal happened because of a concept we call support,” Chelís said. “The player with his back to the net has to support. He was the support for ‘Chore’ [Mejía]. ‘Chore’ had a magnificent touch and struck the ball with conviction. He put his whole leg into that shot, but that goal was born with Agudelo’s support. He wasn’t doing it earlier. He didn’t want to support. But now he does it and he does it well. He’s very, very strong.”
Agudelo, who on Monday was named MLS Player of the Week for his performance against Chicago, had his best year in 2011 when he scored six goals in 27 games for New York. He appears primed to surpass those totals this season.
“It’s awesome to start this way,” Agudelo said. “It’s very important. By winning games everybody is together as a group, even the players that haven’t been playing. That builds the team together and, in the locker room, guys that aren’t playing are encouraging others.”
Blair Angulo covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com