From Central Mass to Major League Soccer: Diego Fagundez
Tuesday, December 17, 2013
After finishing the 2012 season 9-17-8, Jay Heaps and the New England Revolution bounced back to a 14-11-9 record and the number three seed in the Eastern Conference of the MLS Cup Playoffs. Leading the Revolution through the season was an 18 year-old Leominster resident, Diego Fagundez.
The 18 year-old phenom led the Revolution with 13 goals and 20 total points. Fagundez is the son of former professional soccer player Washington Fagundez, who played professionally in Fagundez's native Uruguay.
Fagundez took a unique path the the New England Revolution roster, playing in the Revolution Academy system from 2010-2011. The academy system allows young men, such as Fagundez, to play soccer at the highest level while still attending school. "The Revs Academy was amazing for me," Fagundez said. "I liked it so much that if I could still keep playing with them and with the Revs it is something that I would do.
They gave me a chance that I probably wouldn't have got if I didn't join the Revs Academy, which was nice. And it's just a nice team because you know you play the best players around the country because of all the other academies and thats what I wanted. I wanted to compete at the highest level and that's why I went to the Revs Academy. They gave me that chance, I did well in the two years I was there, scoring lots of goals, doing everything I can to improve myself."
During his time with the Revolution Academy, Fagundez totaled 23 goals and 17 assists in just 28 matches. His fantastic career in the Revolution Academy made his the first ever "homegrown" player to make the New England Revolution roster. In 2011, Fagundez was elevated from the Academy team to the Revolution roster, making six appearances and scoring two goals.
Throughout his time on the professional roster, Fagundez continued his studies as a High School student. "Oh, it was tough," said Fagundez. "It was one of the hardest things that I needed to do. I had to come home and go to school right after training so it wasn't like I was done and after training I could just come home and sleep and rest and stuff. Now I had to go back to school and do all my work and try to graduate.
And finally after three long year, I finally finished a couple of months ago. So it's very exciting to know that next year I'm not gonna have to go to school after practice and focusing on school and playing."
With all the hard work Fagundez put in to complete High School, he was most excited at the prospect that, Next year is more focus on playing and try to get better."
With Fagundez now having time to fully focus on soccer, the rest of MLS will need to be on notice. Fagundez's 13 goals were good for fifth in MLS last year. The 13 goals on the season made Fagundez the youngest player in MLS history to score 10 or more goals in a season.
"It's amazing," Fagundez said. "Right before the season started I said I wanted to score seven goals. I said five in the beginning and I remember telling Jose Goncalves, 'Yeh I'm gonna score five.' And once the five started, I scored five right in a couple of games and I was like, 'You know what, I'm gonna move it up. I'm gonna go to seven.' And then once I scored the sixth I was like 'I need to go to 10.' And once I went to 10, Jose goes 'No you need to go to 15 now.'
I didn't get to 15 but 13 was still enough for me. It was a good year and I was not expecting the year that I had even though I knew I could do it. I think my confidence is now definitely boosted after playing more games and more minutes and doing everything I could to help out the team."
Not only did Fagundez set the record for being the youngest player in MLS history to score 10-plus goals in a season, he is currently the leading teenage goal-scorer in MLS history with 17 and almost two full seasons before he turns 20.
All of these on field accolades earned Fagundez the 2013 New England Revolution team MVP, making him the youngest MVP in team history. "It was exciting," Fagundez said. "I guess it was one of those that I knew I could get if I worked hard and did everything I could to help out the team. And once I came out, from the first day I said I wanted to make playoffs, I didn't want to get eliminated like last year when we were out pretty early because we didn't make it and it was frustrating. I was mad and this year I said, 'No, I'm going to do everything I can to help out the team.'"
And help the team Fagundez has. In 2013, the Revolution returned the the MLS Cup playoffs for the first time since 2009. "We haven't made playoffs in like, four years," Fagundez said. So it was nice for us to make it for the first time in a while. And not just that, but making it that far with all the young people we have on our team." The young core of the Revolution might be led by Fagundez, but features some of the bright young players in MLS. these players include Kelyn Rowe, who scored seven goals and added a team-high eight assists, and 2013 number one overall pick in the MLS Superdraft Andrew Farrell.
This young core has been surrounded by a strong veteran presence, led by MLS defender of the year Jose Goncalves and Chris Tierney.
This young team will look to follow-up the success that their young superstar, but Fagundez is not letting the success change his team-first mentality. "Hopefully scoring more goals than I did this year. But one of my goals I probably would put is making playoffs. It doesn't matter how many goals I score or how many assists. As long as we're making playoffs, I'm happy with it. And thats what I want."