Young U.S. duo misses beat, still shines

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  • Juan Agudelo
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  • Teal Bunbury
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Team USA's Teal Bunbury hit a cool penalty kick to salvage a draw against Chile

CARSON, Calif. – With all eyes upon them, the U.S. national team's two brightest young stars found themselves completely out of sync, the kind of breakdown in communication that should never happen between partners in attack.

Fortunately for the USA, the momentary lapse between Teal Bunbury and Juan Agudelo came while attempting to execute a celebratory "Dougie dance" – the kind made famous by Reggie Bush and a bunch of NFL players this season – and not during actual game action.

Moments before Bunbury and Agudelo rotated in opposite directions to mess up a dance maneuver that will surely earn them some playful abuse from friends and colleagues, they had combined to provide the Americans their brightest moment in Saturday's 1-1 friendly draw against Chile.

Agudelo's fleet of foot drew a foul in the penalty area, Bunbury converted with power and precision, and 2011 and beyond suddenly began to look a whole lot brighter for coach Bob Bradley's program.

The traditional January training camp and friendly is never about results, as it does feature a collection of home-based and second-string players, with the main stars that ply their trade in Europe being excused from participation. The target, therefore, is the identification of promise, and Bunbury and Agudelo delivered plenty of it.

Their play was not perfect, but their introduction as substitutes in the 60th minute was like a breath of fresh air. Energy and tempo sprung from the legs of the duo with a combined age of just 38, and momentum shifted back toward the home side, which at the time trailed due to Estaban Paredes' first-half strike for Chile.

Back in November, it was Agudelo who grabbed all the headlines with the winning goal in his debut in South Africa, but this time Bunbury got to claim the spoils with his penalty after 75 minutes. And though the dance choreography was off, as an offensive pairing they moved to the same rhythm.

"They both came on the field and gave us a good lift," said Bradley. "They found good spots, and you could see potential. They had a good understanding and seemed to both be into the idea that when they came onto the field, they needed to make a difference."

Bunbury is 20 and could have chosen to play for Canada before committing to Bradley's side. Agudelo is 18 and imagines he is playing in the street with his friends to avoid nerves. Both have the power and strength of veterans, while retaining the healthy courage and impertinence of youth.

It might be too early to tout them as the pairing of the future for the U.S. team, but the signs are good. If they continue to improve at the rate they have over the past 12 months, national team fans will be salivating at the prospect of more good performances – and more celebrations.

"All my friends back home kept telling me that if we scored I had to do the 'Dougie,' " said Agudelo. "I could lie and say we were supposed to do it in different directions like that, but we didn't. We messed it up.

"But I feel like me and Teal have a good thing going on. We play well together and since the South Africa friendly we have become close friends."

With Jozy Altidore having failed to score in the World Cup and now seeing little action with his Spanish club Villareal, the opportunity to press for greater involvement in the national team is there for both youngsters.

It will take more than a couple of good cameos, but the future could be as bright as the attitude is refreshing.

"We just wanted to make an impact," said Bunbury. "We felt like if we came into the game and got things going, we could make a difference to the team. That is what it is all about for young guys like us. You don't just want to be part of a game, you want to influence it. We are getting more comfortable in this environment and we want to grow into this team."