19 Striker New England Revolution Uruguay
2014 has been...
A paradox. Diego Fagúndez plays in a team that’s been on a real high for large parts of the 2014 Major League Soccer season and reached Sunday’s MLS Cup, their fifth time in the post-season showpiece. He’s started most matches and featured in the majority of the rest as a substitute, and the side has earned a reputation for attacking verve. Yet the New England Revolution attacking midfielder, one of the team’s most exciting prospects at the start of the year, hasn’t had the individual campaign he would have wanted.
Fagúndez’s record of five goals and fours assists isn’t a patch on his achievements in 2013, and it’s a statistical reading that does reflect the reality of his past two years. Last time out, 13 goals and seven assists made Fagúndez’s one of the most exciting seasons for a teenager in the history of the league. It earned him the record for the number of goals scored in a season by a Homegrown Player, since surpassed by LA Galaxy’s Gyasi Zardes.
It was clear almost from the start that 2014 didn’t feel like Fagúndez’s year. He spoke in April about staying calm after a poor start, and of the need to “figure out a way to beat the defenders”. It only really came briefly. A cluster of goals at the end of the spring secured him a place as one of eight Revolution players on the MLS All-Star Game ballot for the year but they’ve dried up since.
Fagúndez hasn’t been bad this year, just unable to make a big mark on the season. 2014 has perhaps been more about consolidation for a player who’s still eye-wateringly young, but it could be argued that his sophomore slump will be difficult to climb back from in 2015, when he needs to start performing again.
Unfortunately he rarely looked at the top of his game in 2014, save for that purple patch in May which carried the bulk of his goals for the year in a short burst and thrust him forward as part of the Revolution’s two-pronged hope for the year along with Lee Nguyen. The pair played a huge part in turning the Revs’ poor start around, at least until another long dip in the summer, and Nguyen has pushed on remarkably in the months since. Fagúndez has never quite matched him.
Nevertheless, he was named at number five in this year’s MLS ’24 Under 24’ and there are good reasons for it. Fagúndez is an adept technical player, capable of smart link play and trying something special. He’s got good quality on the ball, allied to no little creativity and ambition in what he does with it.
He moves well, drifting between the lines and making decent runs in behind to create chances, at least when he’s in good, lively form. He’s very much an attacker rather than a deeper-lying midfielder, though he has been working on his defensive duties this season in an effort to contribute to the team and improve personally. It’s done him no harm whatsoever, and the lack of 2013’s goals and effervescent invention is balanced in some part by his overall contribution.
Fagúndez can be a little quiet for quite long periods of matches, this season in particular. In some games he’s prone to questionable decision-making, sometimes to the very obvious disgruntlement of his team-mates.
But those team-mates and their coach, Jay Heaps, rate the 19-year-old Uruguayan very highly. One player, since traded, spoke before the start of this season about Fagúndez’s maturity, his eagerness to learn and his confidence. One note to his credit is that he hasn’t shirked anything during what has ultimately been a difficult season individually. It’s easy in a winning team, mind.
A successful career for Fagúndez will reflect well on New England. He joined at the age of 14 and signed his first contract at 15 after the conclusion of the 2010 season, becoming the first player out of the Revs’ academy to earn a professional contract with the club.
It’s easy to wish him well. Fagúndez is a charming, vibrant kid who speaks English and Spanish fluently. Kevin Koczwara’s Boston Globe feature on him in the spring revealed a young man with a love of fishing and confirmed that Diego’s father, former Uruguayan player Washington Fagúndez, named him after former Peñarol and Uruguay midfielder Diego Dorta, Fagúndez Junior’s godfather.
It’s a measure of Fagúndez that he’s remained committed to his studies throughout his fledgling career, and he finally got his rewards in June when he graduated from high school. A job well done, and an even bigger one to come.
In addition to Nguyen’s stunning season, the playoffs in particular have seen Teal Bunbury and Charlie Davies step up to the plate in a very big way. Heaps has been able to lean on two forwards who haven’t been all that reliable of late – for different reasons, admittedly – and Fagundez hasn’t been able to equal them for impact late in the year. So the youngster’s task for 2015 is an obvious one: get back on track, and tap back into the form that made 2013 so electric.
But as far as recent talk of him needing a move goes, well, we’re not having it. The Revs, for the first time in forever, are fun and exciting. Fagúndez is tailor-made for that, and it for him, and they’re winning games as well. For at least another year New England is the best place for him while he gets his head down and extracts the best from his impressive technical ability and instinctive creativity once again.
His international future remains under a question mark. The family moved to Massachusetts from Montevideo when Fagúndez was five and he’s in the process of becoming a US citizen. A year on from getting his green card Fagúndez, who has represented Uruguay at Under-20 level, has refused to rule out a United States national team future.
"Expectations of Diego Fagúndez were high ahead of this season but he’s been overshadowed by Lee Nyugen as an attacking force for the Revolution. But it should be nothing more than a dip and the Revolution’s success shows that he’s been doing plenty right this year. Expect a bigger individual contribution next time round." - Chris Nee
"Diego Fagúndez was the youngest player to be involved in 5+ goals during the 2014 MLS season (five goals and three assists)." - OptaJoe
D A youthful misfire but big things to come.
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