Teenage Dream

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – For many of us, our first jobs often entailed some sort of menial or monotonous task or chore. Some jobs involved standing over a grill and flipping hamburger patties. Others required supervising small children and changing diapers.

Then there’s 15-year-old Diego Fagundez. His first job? Professional soccer player.

Diego Fagundez, a 15 year-old from Leominster, Mass., became the New England Revolution's first-ever Homegrown player when he signed a professional contract with the club in November. (Photo by CHRIS ADUAMA/aduama.com)

To trace the teenage sensation’s meteoric rise from dreamer to the youngest professional soccer player in MLS, you have to go back to when Fagundez was 7-years-old.

After watching his father play professionally in their native Uruguay, Fagundez, who moved with his family to the United States when he was five, wanted to follow in his father’s footsteps. He made it known to anyone willing to listen that he was going to be a pro soccer player.

“I didn’t know how hard it was going to be,” said Faugundez. “I just said it and I told my parents that.”

Fortunately for Fagundez, the level of difficulty wasn’t nearly as high as it may have been for many of his peers. The athletically-gifted kid from Leominster, MA dominated the competition at nearly every youth level program he participated in.

Eventually, Revolution Academy director Deven Apajee, who first noticed Fagundez during the Seacoast United youth tournament back in 2008, took notice of the child prodigy.

“He told me to come tryout because I was good,” said Fagundez, who was only 12-years-old at the time. “And I told him, ‘Well, I’m kind of young’ so I’m not going to try out this year.”

So Apajee waited another year and posed the question again, hoping to get his newest talent to join the Academy. This time, Fagundez was ready to put himself out there.

“So I said, ‘Whatever, I’ll come tryout and see what happens’,” said Fagundez.

Interestingly, Fagundez, who’s amazing talents were obvious even at 12-years-old, did not need to worry about getting a spot on the team.  At least, not the way he tells it.

“I wasn’t nervous because the coach already told me I was on the team,” said Fagundez. “It was like, ‘Go to the tryout and just have fun.'”

Shortly after receiving the official word that he was on the team, Fagundez set out to impress his coaches further during the 2009-10 U.S. Soccer Development Academy campaign. Impress? What the talented teen did instead was much more than that. He amazed.

In 30 games, Fagundez struck paydirt 20 times and was easily one of the best players in the Youth Academy program. And although that strike rate is pretty impressive, the playfully-confident Fagundez is quick to correct the goal total.

“It was actually 25 goals last season,” said Fagundez, as-a-matter-of-factly. “I keep track of them myself. Everybody messes up, so I just keep my own track of it.”

In fact, Fagundez has a plan of how he’ll keep his goal totals accurate this season.

“This year,” said Fagundez. “I’m going to keep it straight with a shirt underneath my game jersey and (write) tally marks on it to keep track of it.”

Fagundez will not be the only one keeping track this season. Last November, the Revolution announced that they had signed Fagundez to a professional contract with its first team. At 15, the flashy forward became the second-youngest player in MLS history (Freddy Adu being the youngest at 14 when he signed with DC United in 2004) when he was signed to a professional contract.

Although the signing may have left many teenagers bouncing with excitement, the calm and cool Fagundez wasn’t at all taken aback by the news.

“I’m not surprised by my success,” said Fagundez. “I’m serious about (soccer). I go at it 100%.”

Some may view Fagundez’s light-hearted and confident demeanor as borderline arrogance, or even youthful ignorance. But, in speaking with the teenager, you can’t help but appreciate the unbridled honesty behind his words – many of which are spoken with a smile or a laugh, as if he were, indeed, living a dream.

There’s something to be said about watching a young person work hard to realize his goals. In Fagundez’s case, it’s hard to not to appreciate the fact that he’s simply a kid – albeit, an extremely talented kid – who’s dream to play professional soccer is right in front of him. How many of us haven’t shared that very same dream?

It all goes back to that innocent proclamation he made when he was 7, even in the face of skepticism.

“I told my teachers about (playing professionally) and they were like, ‘No, you can’t, you’re too young,'” said Fagundez. “And I was like, ‘When i’m 17, at least’ hopefully then i’ll make it professionally and it came even earlier than that.”

Two years earlier, in fact. In case, you know, he wasn’t keeping track.

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About Brian O'Connell

Brian O'Connell serves as editor and staff writer at New England Soccer Today. He's also the Revolution beat writer for ESPNBoston.com, and is Officer at Large for the North American Soccer Reporters. He regularly contributes to The Associated Press, and has been featured on MLSSoccer.com & RevsNet.com. Follow him on Twitter: @BrianOConnell21 or contact him via e-mail at BOConnell21@aol.com