New England Soccer Today

Fantastic Fagundez

When Steve Nicol brought on Diego Fagundez for his debut with the New England Revolution trailing Chivas USA 2-0 with 22 minutes to go on Saturday, the Revs head coach was hoping the youngster could bring some life to the team’s attack. Nicol got far more than that from his talented 16-year-old striker.

It was all about Diego Fagundez on Saturday night. (Photo by CHRIS ADUAMA/

Fagundez dribbled into the box and was taken down – earning a penalty kick – just two minutes after entering. Another eighteen minutes after that, the Leominster, Mass. native had his first professional goal, at just 16 years, 173 days-old, becoming the second youngest player ever to score in Major League Soccer after Freddy Adu (14 years, 320 days).

“We were hoping to get a spark [from Fagundez],” said Nicol. “We had thoughts about playing him at some stage tonight anyway because he’s been doing great in training. He just likes to play, you can see his enthusiasm. It looks like he’s got a footballer’s brain. So it was a no-brainer to get him on. He did a fantastic job – he gets the penalty, he gets the goal: what more can you ask for?”

It was a risky move for a head coach leading a team trailing and desperately in need of points. Sure the youngster has been dominating for the club’s U-16 team, shining for the U-18s and seeing time in MLS Reserve League and US Open Cup matches, but the diminutive 5’8”, 125 pound forward had yet to face MLS competition in a high-pressure league match with points on the line.

And now Fagundez, the Revs first homegrown player, was being asked to lead a team on the brink of a loss and another crushing blow to their playoff hopes back into the match. If he was shut down and proved ineffective, the potential was there for the teenager to suffer a devastating blow to his confidence.

But that wouldn’t be the case. While the Revs would eventually fall 3-2, Fagundez nearly singlehandedly kept the team in the match until the final whistle.

In the 68th minute, two minutes after entering for Zack Schilawski, Fagundez took a pass from Kenny Mansally and immediately headed towards goal, getting tripped up just after entering Chivas USA’s 18-yard box. Referee Mark Kadlecik immediately pointed to the penalty spot and captain Shalrie Joseph calmly converted the spot kick to bring the Revs back within a goal at 2-1.

“I faked the pass into the middle and just took [the defender] one on one,” said Fagundez. “The guy just caught me from behind and I just went down. I’m glad we scored on that [play].”

“That proved that I helped the team a little bit,” he added.

And if confidence might have been a concern before that play, it wasn’t after. With four minutes left in regulation time Fagundez saw a long pass from Kevin Alston heading his way at the top of the box. The rookie could’ve let Joseph take it, but instead he called the Revs’ captain off, wanting to get the ball himself.

“Kevin Alston played it over the top,” said Fagundez. “Shalrie was about to head it and I just said ‘leave it,’ and the ball bounced and I put my body around a player. Right then the ‘keeper came out and I shot lefty and the ball went in.”

That goal made it 3-2, and though the Revs wouldn’t find an equalizer – despite coming close – the night belonged to Fagundez. After earning a penalty and scoring his first goal, Fagundez had earned the respect of the fans and his teammates.

“[Fagundez] was huge,” said Joseph. “I mean, he gave the whole team a spark. It was an unusual sub and Stevie made the call and he made a great call bringing him on. When he came on for some reason we found some energy to come outside and to get into it a little bit more and he created the first goal on getting the penalty.”

Yet the astounding performance didn’t come as too much of a surprise to the Revs lone All-Star. Joseph had seen what Fagundez was capable of in practice.

“[Fagundez ha] been working hard for the last two or three weeks in practice,” said Joseph. “He’s been putting on a show, you could say. He’s a very confident kid at that age. For him to be so confident is a plus for him and he came in tonight and gave us a huge spark and hopefully he can keep going and keep pushing the team. For a little 16-year-old to come on and be so great tonight, hopefully he can keep doing that.”

And while the playoffs may soon be out of reach this season, Fagundez has given the team and its fans a reason to be excited for the future. The young striker could be a key to the Revs attack for years to come.


Fagundez earns a penalty kick:
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Fagundez scores his first career goal
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