New England Revolution: Diego Fagundez
Instead of falling into an early deficit and having to search high and low for an equalizer, the Revolution made the most of its defense, which was undoubtedly bolstered by the presence of Jose Goncalves, who returned to the lineup on Saturday after missing last week's match.
"I thought it was a hard-fought game," Revolution coach Jay Heaps said. "It was difficult to get a ton going on both sides. I thought we did well at times, but it's still coming together a little bit in that final third, and that's always the hardest part early in the year."
While the Revolution may have come up short on the scoreboard for the third straight week, they were able to do something they hadn't done yet this season: Set the tone, and impose their will on their opponent early.
Five minutes into the match, Chris Tierney launched a corner kick into the scrum, where Andy Dorman emerged to glance it on frame before Vancouver goalkeeper David Outsed denied him on a diving save to his right.
New England made another bid for goal in the 33rd minute when Teal Bunbury positioned himself in the path of an Andy O'Brien clearance before the ricochet fell to Diego Fagundez. With space and time to plot his shot, the teenage midfielder was unable to beat Outsed, who collected it well in front of his net.
"All we week, we worked so hard to try to get that last pass," Fagundez said, "to get that last goal, to get that first goal for us. As a team, we did well, but we just didn't finish our last chances."
Fagundez's shot would be one of the few true chances for the Revolution, who put only three of their 17 shots on target. But for all of the attack's shortcomings, the Revolution would quickly find out that, much as they did in the early part of last season, they could rely upon defense to see the game through.
With the task of keeping the likes of Kenny Miller, Darren Mattocks and Pedro Morales off the board, the back four rose to the occasion. Although Miller collected a pair of chances on each side of the interval, he was, for the most part, neutralized by the likes of Andrew Farrell and AJ Soares.
"Having that partnership with Jose, Chris and A.J. -- we knew that was going to jell well," Revolution right back Andrew Farrell said. "We had some good chemistry out there, and it was good that we got the shutout."
Goncalves, who was curiously dropped from the game-day 18 last week, returned to the pitch with a vengeance. The reigning Defender of the Year collected a game-high 13 clearances, and his three interceptions led the way for all Revolution defenders.
"(It felt) good," Goncalves said about being back on the field. "It's the same like every time to be on the pitch. I focused only my game, and that's it."
Meanwhile, the Revolution attack didn't go down without a fight. Shots from Fagundez and Daigo Kobayashi in the latter stages put the Whitecaps on notice, but when it was all said and done, the Revolution walked off the pitch unable to get on the board.
"We just need to break that ice, "Fagundez said. "Not just myself, but everyone as a team needs to break that ice, and (once we do), I think more goals will come."
Not surprisingly, Goncalves, the captain, looked at the broader picture. Although the search for the Revolution's first goal of the season will continue into Week 4, Goncalves believes that Saturday's performance should be viewed in a positive light.
"That's the start (to getting) three points," Goncalves said about posting the clean sheet. "You need to make sure that you don't (concede) any goals before you start taking more points. That's what we did today. It's a good start, and we get our confidence back."
Even though he became a league-wide sensation last year after scoring a team-high 13 goals and playing with undeniable swagger, Fagundez didn't just soak it all up and enjoy it during the offseason. Rather, he approached the winter months with one focus.
“I went into the offseason to train as hard as I can,” Fagundez said. “I wanted to be ready for this year. I hope I start (the 2014 season) where I ended off last year, and not have to start all over, so it’s a matter of hard work.”
If anyone can attest to the benefits of having to constantly wipe the sweat off your brow, it’s the 19-year-old midfielder. For evidence of that, just turn back the clock to last March.
Prior to the 2013 season, coach Jay Heaps and general manager Michael Burns had only one expectation for Fagundez: to arrive at preseason camp fit and healthy. They knew that even though Fagundez had just turned 18, he was capable of making a positive impact on the club’s fortunes if he focused on the simple things.
So Fagundez came to camp with his head down and his mouth shut. He did everything that was asked of him, and then asked for more. But when the season kicked off, he was often a spectator, with only one start afforded to him in the club’s first five games.
Frustration began to creep into his mind, especially as the club’s offense sputtered while he watched from the bench. Fagundez wondered silently: Hadn’t he worked hard enough to belong on the pitch?
Instead of sulking, though, he welcomed any opportunity to stay on the training pitch for extra practice. Anything to show that he meant business. The coaches took notice, and before long, he was in the lineup -- for good.
Many times last season, Fagundez made it look all too easy, but Heaps knows that the wizardry the teenager appears to play with is the byproduct of an insatiable appetite for improvement.
“He’s a player that, every day, is fighting for his time and working hard,” Heaps said. “He understands that every day, he has to get better, and every day he looks to get a little better in training.”
Because of that approach, Heaps isn’t worried about managing expectations for one of the best teenage players to ever set foot on an MLS pitch.
“It’s pretty easy because as a coach, to have that level of a player, the expectations are not what (the media) writes,” Heaps said. “We have our own expectations for Diego (and) when you take the picture, and you (see) it day-by-day, practice-by-practice, it becomes a lot easier (to manage those expectations).”
While Fagundez may indeed be on a higher level than most, even at age 19, he admits that being named a starter for Saturday’s opener in Houston is by no means a certainty in his mind.
“I wouldn’t say I’m going to be an opening day starter,” Fagundez said. “I see it as we’re all fighting for our spots. There’s not one player that knows they’re going to be playing every game. And that’s what I like.”
While Fagundez embraces the perpetual battle for playing time, one thing he’s not as keen on is personal statistics, specifically the impressive ones he put up last year.
“As far as scoring 13 goals and 7 assists, that means nothing to me,” Fagundez said. “It’s a new year, and (there are) new players. I just want to play better, try to help out the team and keep doing what I’ve been doing, and if I can do a lot more for the team, then I would love to.”
In the piece the scout breaks down Fagundez's strengths and weaknesses. Here are some highlights:
Strengths: Fagundez isn't a typical MLS striker. Despite his age, he has a certain class to his game that is fantastic. He possesses great acceleration and change of pace, which for a striker can be deadly when used in the right areas.
Weaknesses: Fagundez needs to improve his passing, especially in the final third. The youngster gets into so many good positions, both through the middle and down the flanks, but his final ball is sometimes either weighted or angled improperly.
Overview: That aforementioned confidence encourages Fagundez to try things and he is unafraid to set lofty targets. ... National teams aren't alone in following the New England striker. European teams are also following Fagundez's games, and it is clear that his future lies in one of Europe's top leagues at some point. It's matter of when, not if, for the teenage sensation.
Click here to read the full piece which goes into a lot more detail on the young Revs star.
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- The sensational stats, game-winning goals and accolades have all made it a season to remember for 18-year-old Diego Fagundez. Conversely, they’ve also made it easy to forget some of the hurdles he cleared along the way.
Despite scoring a team-high 13 goals (the highest season total for a teenager in MLS history), collecting seven assists (second on the team) and garnering the Team MVP award, it’s worth noting that Fagundez wasn’t even a starter back in March.
In the club’s first five games, Fagundez saw only 96 combined minutes worth of action. He didn’t even step onto the pitch in three of them. Adding insult to insult, the club was mired in a scoring slump, which left Fagundez’s exclusion from the lineup even more perplexing.
But instead of allowing frustration to creep in and take over, Fagundez went with the only recourse afforded to him since signing his first pro contract at age 15: He busted his tail behind the scenes.
He not only earned that spot -- he grabbed a hold of it and never let it go. After the Revolution suffered a humiliating 4-1 loss at New York on Apr. 20, Fagundez’s influence in a 2-0 win over Philadelphia was undeniable. He not only scored the opening goal and put the Revolution on course toward a desperately-needed three points, but his play altered the team’s style of play -- and for the better.
Prior to the victory, Fagundez was often slotted as a withdrawn forward/central attacking midfielder, which may not have best suited either the player or the club. But stationed out the wing, with a certain amount of freedom to find opportunities, it all suddenly clicked.
“We had him in a couple of different areas on the field (previously),” Heaps said. “He is someone that we finally said, 'This is the formation that we're going with,' and he was a big part of that formation (change). (It’s) how we wanted to play, and he was a big part of that.”
Heaps abandoned the traditional 4-4-2 formation in favor of a more dynamic 4-1-4-1. And it wasn’t long before Fagundez put the rest of the league on notice as a result.
Shortly after scoring his first goal of the season against Philadelphia, the teenage midfielder scored in four straight games between May 11 and Jun. 2. He assisted in two straight not long after, and helped cast the Revolution in an unfamiliar role: that of postseason contender.
Yet, just as impressive as his summer was shaping up to be, Fagundez admitted he hit a few speed bumps along the way.
As the Revolution slid into a midsummer funk, the youngster felt the pressure to do it all himself. Instead of looking for open teammates or space to operate, he went to goal full-throttle, sometimes with reckless abandonment. During a four-game stretch between mid-July and mid-August, he was dropped from the lineup.
"There were moments in which I was getting frustrated in which I just couldn't score a couple of goals or do anything well,” Fagundez said. “But, I needed to keep working hard and, from there, just move on."
And that’s exactly what he did. Two weeks after 3-0 humbling in Kansas City, Fagundez spearheaded the offense against Philadelphia. He scored a goal and added two assists en route to a 5-1 rout of the same club he found his groove against earlier in the season.
But even though his scoring prowess has done well to steer the Revolution toward its first postseason berth in four years, Heaps actually has a different take on what’s made Fagundez so successful this season.
“He sees how important it is to defend because a lot of his attacks are coming from when he's defending,” Heaps said. “He's engaged, and his breaks where he's receiving the ball are much more dangerous than if he's just out wide, or if he's just up top. He really realizes that his game has gotten much better because of how hard he plays both ways."
One person who Fagundez credits for helping him a more versatile player is Revolution captain Jose Goncalves. When Goncalves arrived in Foxborough this winter, Fagundez almost immediately gravitated toward him as he sought insight on how he could become a better player.
“At the start of the season, he was not a starter,” Goncalves said. “But I kept letting him know that he has to work hard and wait for his chance - and once you get the chance, don't leave it (out there).”
Goncalves also gave Fagundez an important piece of advice: Ignore those who say that there’s plenty of time to develop. The time is now, regardless of how young you are.
“When you want to play, and you are good enough, there is no young or old. There is only quality,” Goncalves said. “He realized that, and he took his chance and did well. He never gives up.”
That attitude has carried Fagundez and his teammates to the brink of its first postseason berth in four years. While Fagundez has never been one to rest his laurels on individual achievements, he couldn’t help but take stock of his season in the days leading up the Saturday’s season finale at Columbus.
"I am a little surprised,” Fagundez said. “But I knew that if I worked hard, I could get anything done and everything's possible. So, it was nice to come into this season and do what I did."
Initially, the Uruguayan-born playmaker was coy about which country he rested his allegiances with. But after he was asked to specify the national team he was speaking about, Fagundez revealed the answer that many U.S. Men’s National Team supporters had been waiting to hear.
“Yeah, I do mean the U.S. National Team,” Fagundez said with a laugh. “I do have options, but I would like to play for the U.S.”
It was a decision that many who have watched Fagundez over the past three seasons wondered whether he would ever make. After all, there were just as many -- if not, better -- reasons for the Montevideo native to choose his home country over the U.S., especially after he was called into the Uruguay U-20 camp for a pair of friendlies last October.
While that spell may have given Fagundez, who moved to the U.S. with his family when he was 5, a taste of international competition, what happened afterward may have given the teenage star a reality check. Instead of receiving another call-up, the Uruguay U-20’s moved on without him as it prepared for this year’s U-20 World Cup.
But the idea that the Revolution’s leading scorer was motivated by the snub -- perceived or real -- doesn’t appear to hold much weight.
According to Revolution general manager Michael Burns, the prospect of Fagundez applying for his green card goes back to November 2010, when the club made him the second-youngest player ever to sign in MLS.
“When Diego signed his first contract when he was 15, we talked about it briefly,” Burns said. “But at the end of the day, it needs to be a decision made by the individual player, and in Diego’s case, (with) his family, because he was a minor at the time.”
Burns said the talk about the 18-year-old obtaining his green card appeared to turn more serious in April, after he signed a multiyear extension with the Revolution.
“I think he decided once he signed his new contract, that the timing was probably right for him,” Burns said. “We support him in that endeavor, and for his sake, we’re glad it came to fruition. It’s a positive for him.”
Of course, there’s still more to do before Fagundez can don the U.S. jersey. The U.S. Soccer Federation requires that all players have full citizenship, and the wait for a person holding a green card to obtain citizenship is five years in most cases. Additionally, Fagundez must spend the bulk of that five-year process stateside, which could keep him from making a move overseas until he is 23.
“It’s a little bit (of a) process,” Fagundez said. “But however long it takes, we’re just going to have to stay where we are now and just keep going and keep waiting.”
Even though the lengthy wait likely will keep Fagundez from featuring for the U.S. in time for the 2018 World Cup, he expressed no regrets about his decision.
“It was important,” Fagundez said. “I knew that if I got it, it was going to be another step closer to playing for a national team. But I’m going to try to do everything I can so that I can try either making something work a little faster to get my citizenship or just wait and see what happens.”
For now, Fagundez is focused on helping the Revolution in their quest to reach the postseason and will wait until the season ends to give more thought to his international future. But no matter what happens, the talented teenager is thrilled that he’s cleared the first major hurdle in becoming a U.S. citizen.
“It’s been a while,” Fagundez said. “I can’t really say how long, but I’m very excited that I have (my green card) already.”
Twenty-six minutes after watching Bill Hamid coolly cradle his first penalty attempt, Nguyen craved nothing more than to make it a distant memory when he stepped up and scored the game-winner to send the Revolution to a 2-1 comeback win over D.C. United on Saturday.
"I needed to redeem myself after that first one," Nguyen said. "But my teammates had my back, and the coaching staff had my back, and you're always going to be confident when they have your back like that."
It was a night in which the Revolution certainly needed to stay confident in one another, and what transpired in the opening minutes was proof positive of that.
In the 11th minute, Luis Silva played a low cross into the area, where Scott Caldwell attempted to clear it out of danger. But instead of sending it away from frame, Caldwell's ball rolled into the back of the net to give the guests a surprising early lead.
"It's obviously devastating that it happened that early in the game, or any point in the game," Caldwell said. "But the way my teammates picked me up and responded so quickly, the way we played out the rest of the half, and the rest of the game in general, was huge."
The Revolution wasted no time trying to get back on level terms. In the 24th minute, Andrew Farrell sent a long ball ahead for Dimitry Imbongo, who slipped through a pair of D.C. defenders before firing a shot that glided wide of the post.
Another opportunity arrived in the 36th minute, when Kelyn Rowe, who entered Saturday's game with five goals in his last five games, fired one of his patented, long-distance shots from 20 yards that just missed its intended target. Rowe sent another bid from distance minutes before the half, but once again, his shot veered away from frame.
Although the Revolution weren't able to find the board before the interval, Revolution coach Jay Heaps was nevertheless encouraged by what he saw from his players during the first half.
"We had a good conversation at halftime," Heaps said. "And in the second half, we really took the game and created a lot chances."
The first chance they found after halftime came in the 57th minute, after Nguyen was brought down by Dejan Jakovic inside the right edge of the area and referee Carlos Rivera pointed to the spot. But when Nguyen promptly sent it right to a diving Hamid, it seemed as if a Revolution victory simply wasn't meant to be.
"I was planning on going to that side and he read it early," Nguyen said. "And right in my mind, (during) my half-swing, I was like, '(Darn).' I couldn't change it in time, but credit to him. He made a great first save."
But before the hosts could reflect on their poor fortune, they responded with a flourish. A minute after Nguyen's miss, Saer Sene led Diego Fagundez with a long through ball into D.C.'s defending third. Fagundez beat a pair of defenders, then slipped it past Hamid to get the goal they'd longed to score.
"It was very important," Heaps said of the 58th-minute goal. "For our guys to stay up and react well, I liked that a lot."
Needing another strike to avoid a humbling draw -- not to mention a devastating blow to their postseason hopes -- the Revolution attacked at will, as D.C. dropped back in the hopes of squeezing out a road point.
The thought of a road point nearly turned into three in the 81st minute, when Conor Doyle chipped a shot over the reach of Matt Reis. But without the power needed to send it clean into the net, Reis raced back to swat it away before it crossed the line.
Less than a minute later, though, the Revolution picked themselves right back up after Nguyen was fouled inside the area again. And there was no question who was going to take it after Rivera pointed to the spot for the second time.
"It was just great to have the confidence from my teammates and the coaching staff," Nguyen said. "That's all I needed and after that (earlier miss)."
Fagundez, just 18 years old, has scored a goal in four straight games. He set up Saer Sene and Lee Nguyen for the game’s first two goals, before scoring his fifth goal of the season in the 87th minute.
Sunday was the first multiple-point game of Fagundez’s career, and his first career multiple-assist game. His four-game goals scoring streak is the Revs’ longest goal-scoring streak since 2005 when Clint Dempsey scored in five straight games between April 9 and May 7.
Never mind that New England scored its most goals in an MLS game since September 2004. Or the fact that they did it against the back-to-back defending champions, who themselves came into Sunday's game fresh off a 4-0 trouncing of the Seattle Sounders.
No, none of that mattered to Heaps, who insisted that Sunday's win -- the Revolution's fifth of the season -- meant nothing more than any of their other four wins on the season.
"It's three points," Heaps said. "We're still in the middle of the pack trying to fight away. Every game is a grind for us."
Although the score may not suggest it, Sunday's game certainly was a grind for the Revolution in the early going.
In the first 25 minutes, the Revolution's possession rate hovered near 38 percent, and with the way the Galaxy were making regular forays into the final third, it seemed as if the guests were ready to put one past goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth.
"To be fair, I thought they were the better team in the first half," Revolution left back Chris Tierney said. "They created more chances, but we weathered the storm, which is what you have to do sometimes and Bobby kept us in the game with some big saves."
In the 33rd minute, Andrew Farrell played it forward to Saer Sene, who then looked for a teammate to stretch the Galaxy defense. He found Diego Fagundez in the middle, and sent him a quick pass that Fagundez immediately returned to Sene, who ran onto it and sent it past Carlo Cudicini.
"[Fagundez] was putting the ball exactly where he wanted," Heaps said. "That touch to Saer was one of the best touches of the game."
Fagundez, who entered the match on fire with three goals in his past three, would go on to steer the attack in the second half, as the Revolution hit the jackpot in the waning moments.
With the game far from decided as late as the 71st minute, an alert Fagundez caught the Galaxy napping on defense following a curious sequence in which a foul was called differently by two different officials. But instead of waiting for the confusion to clear, Fagundez played it forward on a quick restart to Lee Nguyen, who casually slipped it past Cudicini for the second goal.
"It was weird because the linesman called it a throw-in for [the Galaxy] and the referee called it a foul," Fagundez said. "So as soon as he called it a foul, I got the ball, put it [down] and played it [to] Lee, and Lee just did it on his own and scored."
A two-goal victory against the defending champions would've been impressive for a middle-of-the-pack team like the Revolution. A team that hadn't seen much success in recent years would've relished that kind of result. But the team that played in front of a season-high 19,120 home supporters on Sunday clearly wasn't satisfied with only two goals. Not even close.
In the waning moments, the Revolution unleashed a furious display of offense that saw Fagundez (87'), Chad Barrett (90+1) and Kelyn Rowe (90+4) all pad the lead to hand the champions their worst defeat of the season -- a defeat that had the Galaxy scratching their heads trying to figure out what had just happened to them.
The Revolution, for their part, knew what they did to humble the Galaxy.
"We just made enough plays when it came down to it," Tierney said. "We obviously found our feet a little in the second half and the guys up top did a great job and we kept another clean sheet in the back, which is always a priority."
A statement game? Don't tell that to Heaps.
"We're still grinding," Heaps said. "We just got [above] .500, we have five wins now, and it's important for us to use this as a learning experience."
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- One of the biggest reasons why the Revolution have managed to reel off back-to-back wins for the first time this season can be summed up in two words: Diego Fagundez.
On Saturday, the 18-year-old midfielder scored his third goal in as many games to lift his club to a 2-0 win over Toronto FC. He leads the club with four goals on the season.
"Getting those extra minutes in and getting confident in the game (has helped)," Fagundez said after Saturday's game. "Then, just going out there, trying to help out the team and being in the right spots."
No question Fagundez has been getting into the right spots during the last three weeks. Whether it's sneaking to the near post on a corner kick, running onto a ball and bursting through the backline, or volleying a deep cross -- as he did on Saturday -- Fagundez is finding a variety of ways to stamp his name on the scoresheet.
The manner in which the Revolution's original Homegrown Player has found the back of the net hasn't been an accident, especially with the club's improved form going forward.
In recent weeks, Revolution head coach Jay Heaps has tinkered his offense to get the most out of dynamic players like Fagundez, who's never been shy to take on a defender or make a late run into the area. So far, the tweaking has done wonders to put Fagundez in dangerous positions.
"The way we've been playing right now is very fluid in the offense," Heaps said. "We're pushing where Diego is. It's a little bit wider and he has a little bit more freedom and so he's getting good in matchups and he's an intuitive player as well."
That intuition served him well on Saturday. In a game that could've deteriorated into a sluggish effort given the rainy conditions and a struggling opponent that would've been happy to salvage a draw, Fagundez made a keen far post run and punched a long cross from Chris Tierney past Toronto keeper Joseph Bendik in the 23rd minute for what proved to be the game winner.
"I wasn't trying to pick out Diego or anything," Tierney said. "I was just trying to put it in a good area ... what a finish on his part. Great side-foot finish."
But the teenager wasn't about to punch the clock after his masterpiece. Instead, he continued to make dangerous runs into the final third, and put additional pressure on the Toronto backline by switching sides with fellow midfielder Juan Agudelo, a certain freedom that Heaps might not have given him a few weeks ago.
"I actually like that a lot because you don't have just one side just to stay on the whole game," Fagundez said. "If you play 90 against just one defender, he knows what you're doing, so you just switch it up and they get confused."
Most teenage attacking players would be content to devote all their energies on the offensive end and put their defensive chores on the backburner. But Heaps is quick to point out that Fagundez has actually done well to track back and aid the defense.
"He's becoming a complete player," Heaps said. "You see him forward and back doing both things, and the better he is defensively, the more he does offensively."
Eventually, the rest of the league will catch on to what Fagundez has been doing during the past three weeks. He knows that his torrid form won't last forever, and he understands he'll have to put in more work each week to find scoring chances.
"It's going to get harder and harder," Fagundez said. "But I just have just to (find) those chances and just get into the right spots at the right time and go forward from there."
On Saturday, the Revolution were up to the challenge in the opening and closing moments of each frame, but surrendered a Lloyd Sam goal a minute after Diego Fagundez scored the opening strike in Saturday's 1-1 draw against the first-place New York Red Bulls.
"I don't think it's (our) mentality," Heaps said. "I think it's concentration. Those situations where you score goals, you are elated and tired. I hate celebrations; I like one or two guys to celebrate. If you ever go back and watch my film, I didn't run past half-field; we tried to get back and defend. That's a defender's time to gather his breath. After you score goals, you have to turn on. It was poor."
Although the Revolution continued their run of success against the Red Bulls at home, it was clear that everyone in the home locker room -- especially Heaps -- was none too pleased to walk away from Saturday's game with only one point.
The 18-year-old noticed that the Red Bulls weren't defending the near post on the previous two Revolution corner kicks, so he figured that he'd take advantage of the invitation less than 10 minutes into the second stanza.
"They didn't have anyone marked on me and Chris played a good ball right to me and I kind of had to do a side volley," Fagundez said. "When they stopped it right on the line, I was just going to blast it but then I saw an open spot that I could just place it in."
The goal sent the Foxborough faithful into a frenzy, but Sam put a hasty end to the celebrations when he grabbed a through ball from Andre Akpan and pushed it past Bobby Shuttleworth for the quick equalizer in the 55th minute.
"Me and Kosuke (Kimura) did a little one-two," Akpan said. "I don't know if they fell asleep for a little bit, but I just found Lloyd and made a good little run in the box and he finished low and well to the far post."
Yes, the goal from Sam certainly pulled the rug from under the Revolution, but the game was far from decided with more than half an hour left for both teams to work with.
Fagundez found two more open invitations to put the ball in the back of the net in the waning moments. In the 80th minute, he redirected a Tierney feed on frame that Luis Robles denied at the last moment. Another chance unfolded in stoppage time, when Fagundez ripped a shot that flew over the bar.
"His positioning was great," Tierney said. "When Diego's on and gets running at people, he's tough to defend. When he's playing like he did tonight, we have to keep getting him the ball in good spots."
Despite the host of chances they gathered late to stake a win, Tierney could only lament the missed opportunity to collect four points from the two-game home set.
"It seemed (like) a little breakdown, a few little short one-twos," Tierney said of Sam's 55th minute goal. "We always stress the first five (minutes) after either the half, the start of the game, or scoring a goal and obviously we didn't do a good enough of a job of taking care of those five minutes."
He knows that nothing is earned without hard work. Without determination. Without putting in the maximum effort, especially during weekly training sessions.
So whenever he sees his named penciled into the starting XI, as he did on Saturday against FC Dallas, Fagundez soaks up every minute of it.
“I was loving it [the playing time],” Fagundez said after the game. “I got 80-something minutes and it felt like I had been playing for a while. The training’s been [going] well for me, so once I stepped on the field, it was game-on for me.”
In 85 minutes of action, Fagundez provided a potent presence on a squad that was starving for its first goal since their season opener three weeks ago in Chicago.
In the 34th minute, the teenager claimed one of the Revolution’s best scoring chances of the afternoon when he collected a pass from Jerry Bengtson and slid into the area to fire a quick shot on Raul Fernandez. But even though Fernandez dove to make the stop, and the Revolution ultimately fell 1-0, it was the kind of creative spark head coach Jay Heaps was looking for when he penciled in his young playmaker.
“[We put in] Diego for a little more offense,” Heaps said after Saturday’s game. “I thought he brought it tonight. I thought Diego did alright, a couple turnovers, but overall it was positive in what he was trying to do.”
And he did it out of his customary position, too. Typically, Fagundez plays on the right or inside as a withdrawn forward. But for Saturday’s contest, Heaps deployed him out on the left, hoping to give Dallas a different look.
While the switch may have given the Dallas defenders a few problems, it suited Fagundez just fine. He completed 80 percent of his passes, and more importantly, helped strengthen the attack as the game progressed.
“I’m really comfortable [playing on the left wing],” Fagundez said. “I like going one on one against defenders or moving around, especially when you have a lot of good players like Juan [Toja] and Lee [Nguyen] and Ryan [Guy] and Jerry [Bengtson] up top. We can move around and get open.”
About the only problem Heaps faced with Fagundez on the field was when to take him off, given that the talented teenager hadn’t played a full game since last season.
“He hadn’t played 90 yet [this season],” Heaps said. “So I knew he was tired, but he seemed so positive in what he was doing -- a lot of what he was trying to do -- so I didn’t want to take him out too soon.”
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. -- Most high school seniors never get the chance to sign a professional sports contract. All the more rare is the instance when it happens twice before graduation.
But on Wednesday, 18-year-old Diego Fagundez put pen to paper for the second time in three years, signing a multi-year extension with the New England Revolution. Terms of the deal were not disclosed by the club, per league and club policy.
Fagundez, who attends night classes at Fitchburg High School, originally signed with the club in November 2010 at age 15 following a sensational two seasons in the Revolution Youth Academy.
“He’s a guy that we wanted to try to lock in for the ... I say the long-term, even (though) when his current deal expires, he’ll still be a young player,” Revolution General Manager Michael Burns said on Wednesday. “The timing was just right for us, and obviously it was right for him.”
The same could’ve been said at the time the club originally came to terms with him in November 2010. As one of the country’s most promising prospects in the U.S. Soccer Development Academy, the club knew it had to act quickly before he was lured overseas.
Entering his third professional season, the front office realized it would be beneficial to negotiate with their teenage sensation. Even though he had just turned 18 last month, Burns knew there was interest abroad.
Given that, the Revolution general manager admitted that he was somewhat surprised that he was able to re-sign the talented teenager before his initial deal expired.
“A little bit, given that he had another year after this,” Burns said. “I wasn’t sure which route he would want to go, but we’re obviously pleased that he wanted to remain here.”
According to Fagundez, who was born in Uruguay before he and his family moved to the U.S. when he was five, staying local was one of the primary reasons behind his decision to re-sign.
“I like the environment here, and my family (does too),” Fagundez said on Wednesday. “It’s a nice country and I just need to get all my stuff sorted out. It’s kind of hard to just grab all of your stuff and just move away."
Fagundez has come a long way since his MLS debut -- a debut that saw him score and set up a penalty in the waning minutes against Chivas USA on August 6, 2011.
Although he hasn’t become a fixture in Jay Heaps first XI, the 18-year-old’s ability to inject life into the attack through his creativity and cunning runs is often the hallmark of a player on the precipice of greater success.
“The collective feeling amongst the organization is that he obviously has an upside,” Burns said. “Now it’s up to him to find a way to make it as difficult as he can on Jay to play as often and regularly as he can.”
Fagundez understands he could have tested the international waters and sought to find a place where he could get regular playing time. While he was comfortable in his current role with the Revolution, he admitted that his decision to sign on the dotted line wasn’t a hasty one.
“We’re pleased that Diego has made the commitment to remain in New England,” Revolution General Manager Michael Burns said. “While he’s only 18, we believe he has a very bright future with our club and in Major League Soccer.”
Fagundez became the third-youngest player (15 years, 273 days) to sign an MLS contract when he signed with the Revs on November 15, 2010. Fagundez, who was born in Montevideo, Uruguay, moved to Leominster, Mass. when he was five.
He made his MLS debut on Aug. 6, 2011 against Chivas, scoring his first career goal in that game. He was the second-youngest player to score a goal in MLS history (16 years, 173 days).
Fagundez has made 27 appearances (11 starts) with the Revs, scoring four goals.
After a dismal 2011 that saw them finish with a franchise-low five wins and a spot at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table, everyone from the players, management and fans was anxious to put the season behind them and look toward the future.
But before the organization could set its sights on the following season, it realized changes would have to be made.
The first -- and most dramatic -- was the decision to part ways with long-time manager Steve Nicol. Although the affable coach led the team to eight consecutive playoff appearances from 2002-2009, back-to-back losing seasons spelled the end of the Nicol Era in Foxboro less than three days after the season finale.
Following Nicol’s exit, the Revolution restructured its front office by tapping former COO Brian Bilello to succeed Sunil Gulati as President and naming former VP of Player Personnel Michael Burns to the general manager’s post. Though neither is a stranger to the organization, the appointments were designed to give the front office greater transparency.
The first order of business for the duo? Finding a new head coach. After weeks of interviews, the team went with another familiar face, former Revolution defender Jay Heaps. And while Heaps may not have been the most experienced candidate, his work ethic and modern approach to game preparation were enough for the organization to hand him the head coaching reins.
With only eight weeks to revamp the roster prior to the start of the preseason, Heaps hit the ground running. Veterans Pat Phelan, Ryan Cochrane and Kheli Dube had their options declined, while international signings Rajko Lekic, Milton Caraglio and Monsef Zerka were allowed to take their services elsewhere.
Meanwhile, Heaps and the front office made sure they locked up perennial All-Star Shalrie Joseph and the reliable Matt Reis for the 2012 season. With two proven veterans on board, the team began to build around them.
It started with the addition of midfielder Clyde Simms in Stage 2 of the Re-Entry Process. From there, the team added center back John Lozano and midfielder/forward Fernando Cardenas, both from Colombia. Then came the SuperDraft, which opened the door for the team to select the technically-sound Kelyn Rowe with the third overall pick.
But the moves didn’t end on draft day. To sharpen the attack up top, the team recruited another Colombian -- Jose Moreno -- and former Bayern Munich reserve striker Saer Sene. Although doubts were cast about Moreno after reports in Colombia surfaced that he wanted to remain in his native country, the Revolution insist that he will join the team shortly.
The moves worked wonders in the preseason as witnessed by the Revolution winning six of seven contests. And while the squad still has room to improve -- particularly on defense, where rookie Tyler Polak hasn’t taken over the left back spot as quickly as anticipated -- the team has claimed something it was desperate to find last year, confidence.
It may be too early to tell how the changes made in the winter will impact the Revolution in the spring and summer. But the returns thus far have been promising.
During the FC Tucson Desert Diamond Cup, a four-team preseason tournament, Rowe has shown the skills to be a game-changer. Lozano became a strong and steadying presence in the back. Simms has proven a capable partner alongside Joseph in the center. Sene has shown flashes of potential by getting into good positions. That, along with solid performances from Joseph, Reis and 17-year-old Homegrown sensation Diego Fagundez have brought a renewed sense of optimism to Foxboro in the aftermath of last season’s failures.
It’s taken a particularly active offseason to rebuild the Revolution -- so much so that Burns often quipped that there was no offseason for him and Heaps. But the parts that the pair has assembled -- including recently-signed midfielder/forward Lee Nguyen -- during the winter has put the squad in a position to extend their season come autumn.
The 2012 season is right around the corner. And for everyone involved, it’s about time.
Brian O'Connell is covering the Revolution for ESPNBoston.com. He is the co-founder of New England Soccer Today (www.nesoccertoday.com), which covers professional soccer within New England. He can be reached at BOConnell21@aol.com.
ESPNHS is honoring 36 teen athletes this week in its 18 under 18 package. From superstars to those who inspire with their ability to overcome obstacles, they pick 18 male and 18 female athletes who are doing remarkable things on the field, in the classroom and in their communities.
Among those being honored is 17-year-old Revolution forward Diego Fagundez.
That's all it took for the 17-year-old Diego Fagundez -- a sophomore at Leominster (Mass.) -- to prove he deserved a spot on this list. In his MLS debut for the New England Revolution against Chivas USA on Aug. 6, the Uruguay native entered in the 66th minute and almost immediately drew a penalty kick, which was converted by a teammate. In the 86th minute, he tallied his first professional goal.
Of course, those 24 minutes were really just a glimpse of the talent that convinced the Revolution to sign him as a 15-year-old. A decade earlier, Fagundez and his family moved from Montevideo, Uruguay, to Leominster. His father, Washington, played professionally in his homeland, although he was a goalkeeper and Diego is more of an attacking midfielder.
At 5-foot-8, 130 pounds, Fagundez relies on his speed and technical ability to thrive on the field. Despite his slight frame, he is not scared to mix it up with bigger players. In a game against Columbus in October, Fagundez inflicted some pain on 6-foot-4, 190-pound defender Chad Marshall, who suffered a cut and had to leave the game to receive medical attention after colliding with Fagundez as they went for a header.
Fagundez was later diagnosed with a mild concussion. That injury is behind him now, and just in time, as the MLS season is fast approaching. With a new coach at the helm for the Revolution (Jay Heaps), the 17-year-old Fagundez will look to impress in the preseason in hopes of earning more regular playing time in his second full season as a professional.
Click HERE to read about the other male athletes and here to read about the female athletes.