New England Soccer Today

Something to Prove All Over Again

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Photo credit: Kari Heistad/

Typically, a player who puts together a 13-goal, 7-assist season as a teenager shouldn’t have to prove himself all over again. But that’s the situation Diego Fagundez faces this winter.

Coming off a season in which his production dipped to the point where he didn’t even see a single minute of action during the Revolution’s playoff run, the now 20-year-old will be fighting to reclaim his spot in the lineup this winter. So how did this all happen?

It’s not terribly difficult to find out how the Homegrown Player’s 2014 season went awry. Coach Jay Heaps has always demanded that his wingers embrace the defensive dirty work required to make the 4-1-4-1/4-3-3 work, and while Teal Bunbury and Kelyn Rowe tailored their game accordingly, it appeared that Fagundez hadn’t quite done the same.

But it wasn’t out of indifference, per se. Early on, Fagundez was clearly pressing after he struggled to scribble his name on the scoresheet. Not that he was the only one, mind you. But his increased focus on finding the back of the net may have distracted him from those defensive duties.

Despite that, Heaps was willing to stick with his talented winger, but a curiously early exit from an Apr. 19 match at Chicago signaled that something may have been off. To his credit, Fagundez went on a tear during May, a month in which he scored four goals and collected two assists and garnered MLS Player of the Month consideration. It appeared that the Fagundez of yesteryear had finally entered the building.

As it turned out, the month of May was only a mirage. During the summer months, at a time in when the Revolution’s springtime form faltered, Fagundez’s performances followed suit.  By the time the homestretch arrived, he was little more than an afterthought, even though Jermaine Jones’ arrival seemed to lift the tide for the entire squad. But in the final 10 matches, he made the XI only three times, and went the full 90 in only one of them.

But as they say, the past is pretense. And as such, Fagundez could be in a favorable position to turn it around this year.

The Revolution midfielder is coming off a two-month stint with the Uruguay U-20 squad, which recently competed in the South American Youth Championship. Though he may not have amassed a ton of minutes, he warranted his spot on the roster by playing particularly well leading up to the final cuts.

If it’s confidence that Fagundez was lacking during the latter part of last season, one would have to think that the faith placed in him by Uruguay U-20 coach Fabio Coito has probably re-instilled the self-belief that’s crucial to a creative player’s success.

Another development that favors Fagundez: The return of Juan Agudelo. It was during their lone season together as teammates that Fagundez truly flourished. He undoubtedly benefited from Agudelo’s holdup play, which created pockets of a space for the creative winger to exploit. And chemistry? It was impossible to ignore that the duo was operating on the same wavelength for much of the season.

Additionally, one need only look to the beginning of his stellar campaign to see where the seeds of his success derived. At the start of 2013, Fagundez was far from a regular starter, and seemed to play with a chip on his shoulder. It’s quite likely that Fagundez has adopted a similar frame of mind going into this season.

Whether the Fagundez of two seasons ago is on the verge of returning one of the most intriguing storylines in Revolution camp. Though Rowe assumed Fagundez’s spot on the left down the stretch, the job isn’t his lock, stock and barrel by any means. And with last season finally behind him, the opportunity for a fresh start could be just what Fagundez needs from a psychological standpoint to reassert himself on the pitch.

Two years ago, with his playing time anything but certain, Fagundez acknowledged that he needed to improve his defensive work in order to get Heaps’ attention. He made that adjustment, and not long after, was in the midst of the most successful MLS campaign ever put together by a teenager.

In many respects, it’s looking like 2013 all over again. And that may be the best thing going for Diego Fagundez at the moment.

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