FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It was just what the Revolution needed.
Striker Juan Agudelo returned after missing eight games due to a knee injury and scored the game-winning goal as the Revolution topped Chicago 2-0 on Saturday night.
Agudelo scored a Goal of the Week candidate in the 54th minute, taking a long ball over the top of the defense from Chris Tierney and used the side of his foot to flick the bouncing ball over Sean Johnson and into the net. Bakary Soumare cleared the ball out of the net but the linesman signaled a goal.
The long ball from Tierney was something Agudelo had talked to the defender about, trying to beat Fire defender Austin Berry over the top.
“It was fun,” said Agudelo. “I feel like teammates were trying to find me and that felt great. Chris Tierney played an awesome ball. We talked about it before the game and I think it was at halftime, playing it behind Austin’s back. I was able to get there and finish it off for my team.”
When Agudelo was acquired, the 20-year-old helped spark the New England offense, scoring three goals in five games while the team tallied 12 total. The team went 3-1-1. But in his eight-game absence, the team scored just nine goals and posted a 3-4-1 record.
“It was a tough time to see my teammates, at the 80th minute, 90th minute, just reaching out for a breath and to not be able to come out with wins,” Agudelo said. “I’m lucky I was able to come back and help my teammates.”
Agudelo had said he was ready to play last week when the team traveled to Sporting KC, but was not cleared by the medical staff, which Agudelo called a precaution. This week Agudelo said he felt “110%” and played 68 minutes in his return.
Not only did he score the Revolution’s first goal, he was a key target man that benefited his teammates.
“For me, Juan has a really good presence up there,” Revolution head coach Jay Heaps said. “He’s not afraid to receive it and when he receives it he’s always dangerous as he holds it. It’s not just holding it to play it. It’s holding it, drawing people in, and giving it up. For me, he makes players like Lee [Nguyen] and Kelyn [Rowe] have a little bit more time to find the gaps. When you have someone who can do that, it really opens up what we’re trying to do.”
One of those players– Kelyn Rowe – agreed and was happy to have Agudelo back in the lineup.
“I mean Juan’s a great player and he always has been,” Rowe said. “We’re lucky to have him back from injury and I thought he played a great game today obviously getting a goal. He’s just a havoc. He’s great holding the ball up and he’s going to get behind [defenses] and he’s a clinical finisher. It’s very good for us.”
Another player that returned to the lineup for the Revs was goalkeeper Matt Reis, who was impressed with the return of Agudelo.
“It was a great goal,” Reis said. “That’s what he brings. He brings that little bit that you need. You can see why the Premier League is asking for him.
“He does all the things well. He holds the ball up well, he gets behind well, and he takes people on. He’s got the complete package.”
As for the goal, Agudelo said he knew the ball had crossed the line and credited instinct and “maybe a little South American swag” for the manner in which he finished.
“I knew it was across the line but I was hoping that the refs saw that it was across the line,” he said. “It was an awesome feeling to see the linesman put his flag up to say it was a goal.”
And the goal wasn’t special just because it was Agudelo’s return to play or because it was his first tally since signing a pre-contract with Stoke City, but rather because of who it was against. Agudelo said Fire goalie Sean Johnson is a good friend that he knows from the National Team.
“We were kind of bantering before the game and I think I got the last laugh,” he said.