In conjunction with our New England Revolution 2017 Season Preview, we are delighted to bring you an EiF Exclusive Interview with New England Revolution midfielder Diego Fagundez. The Revolution signed Fagundez at the tender age of 15 as their first ever homegrown player, and he went on to become the youngest player in MLS history to reach 100 appearances and the youngest player to score 25 goals. Hawk and Marc speak with the Uruguayan maestro about his career, the upcoming season, and much more…
On the week of both his birthday and Valentine’s Day, Diego Fagundez is completely focused on preseason training and is determined to help his team improve from last year’s playoff snub. He stresses the unity of this season’s Revolution squad saying, “I think we have an awesome team right now. Everybody’s combining together, we’re communicating together, we’re doing a lot of things together.” This togetherness may well be the key to improving the team’s performances.
“The more people that are bonding together, the better we will be on the field.”
But the team is not only working to come together, they are also extremely competitive with each other in training, according to Diego Fagundez: “I think you see everybody wants to have that breakout season, we’re all trying to work hard and make sure that we make the playoffs. That’s important to everybody.”
When asked about what it is like to play with US internationals, Fagundez immediately says, “I love playing with Juan Agudelo.” He again emphasizes the importance of bonding off the field in the development of his relationship with Agudelo: “If we’re friends off the field, then on the field it’s gonna be easier to play with each other and know what we’re gonna do.” He credits this off the field friendship with helping him and Agudelo to improve their communication and understanding of each other’s play style.
Fagundez and Agudelo celebrate a goal together
(Photo: NBC Sports)
Fagundez then took us back to when he first signed for the Revolution in 2010. He was only 15, and he was one of the first players to sign a homegrown contract in MLS, an occurrence that is very common today. When asked if he thought that his success helped pave the way for the widespread signing of homegrown players, he says, “Yeah I think there’s so many players that are very good, and you see it often, just some people don’t keep at it and they choose another path. I took my opportunity early because you never know when you’re gonna get another one.”
Fagundez was playing for the Revs’ youth side when they decided to sign him. Looking back on it now, he remembers signing for the Revs as an unbelievable moment: “It’s just a good feeling to know that a team wants you, and that all the hard work you’ve been giving them in the academy has paid off.” Fagundez is thankful that he is able to support his family while still playing the game he loves.
“I always wanted to be a professional soccer player”
The Revolution’s faith in such a young player paid off big time. On his MLS debut, Fagundez drew a penalty, which Shalri Joseph netted, and scored a goal himself. Ever professional and humble, Fagundez remarks, “I was very excited for him to put me in, and when I went in I did my job. I was trying to help out the team as much as possible, give a spark to it.”
Since Fagundez started playing at such a young age, he has amassed more appearances at the age of 22 than most players have by their late twenties. So does his experience make him an MLS veteran or is he still considered a young player? Fagundez says, “I definitely consider myself a veteran.” After over 150 appearances and over 30 goals, it is experience, not age, that shines through for Diego.
“Soccer’s not about age. If you play a lot of years in this league you have experience, and that’s what shows.”
Fagundez has never let his age get in the way of achieving his dreams. He says, “You’re playing against another person. No matter how old he is, you just know that you have to be better than him. I’ve always played against older people, so coming into this league it wasn’t anything new to me.”
In addition to being much younger than almost all of his teammates and opponents, Fagundez also had to learn to breach the gap in physicality between his 130-pound teenage self and the full-grown athletes he was competing against. He says, “I can move off the ball, and play and get around them with my speed and I think that’s helped me all along.” Although he was put on a few pounds since then, he still utilizes his speed and movement to beat defenders without them even getting close enough to touch him.
Diego’s success for the Revolution was enough to earn him the opportunity to represent Uruguay at the Under-20 level, an honor which he deems very special. There were talks of him playing for the US, but he had issues since he was not a US citizen. After having a great experience with his Uruguayan teammates, some of which have even made moves to European sides, Fagundez hopes that he will have another chance to represent his national side.
“I didn’t get to play for the US because I’m not a citizen. It’s kinda hard when you’re not a citizen and you want to try to jump into playing for the national team and you can’t”
Although he may be disappointed to not have had the opportunity to play with the US National Team, Fagundez played with some extremely talented players during his time with the Uruguay U-20 side. The most notable of his international colleagues are Gaston Pereiro and Mauricio Lemos, who currently play for PSV Eindhoven and Las Palmas, respectively. On whether he keeps in touch with them, Diego Fagundez says, “It’s not like you talk every day but you kinda know what they do every day and how they’re doing. It’s nice to see that they’re succeeding.”
Fagundez representing Uruguay in a match against Colombia
(Photo: NBC Sports)
Diego then, answered several questions from our fans on twitter. On pregame rituals, Fagundez says that he likes to be active on the day of a game rather than resting in the build up to the match. Fagundez’s prematch routine differs hugely from that of Andrea Pirlo, who famously said in his book, I Think Therefore I Play, “I spent the afternoon of Sunday, July 9, 2006 in Berlin sleeping and playing the PlayStation. In the evening, I went out and won the World Cup.” Contrarily, Diego Fagundez says, “I need to spend some energy to gain more so when game time comes I have new energy to spend and it’s not that sleepy tiredness kind of energy.”
Lastly, Diego regaled us with two tales. The first was the story of how he got his dog, Champ. Leading up to a youth tournament, Diego’s parents presented him with a difficult choice: “Right before that tournament, my parents asked me if I wanted a dog or a computer, and I said I want a dog.” After defeating Dix Hills 4-0 in the final, Fagundez decided to name the dog “Champ” in honor of the victory.
Upon learning that one of EiF’s Co-Founders is still scarred to this day from being chipped by Diego Fagundez in a U-12 ODP camp in Virginia, Diego says, “Tell him he’s not the first person I chipped and he’s not the last.” Another person who I imagine is scarred is a goalkeeper who told Diego that he had never chipped him and that he never would. Diego immediately said, “Never say that to me, never never.” Sure enough, the very next day the goalkeeper found himself on the ground while the ball looped delicately into the back of his net and Diego wheeled away in celebration.
“Never say never to me, because I’ll do it”
Even the name of his dog reflects Diego Fagundez’s winning mentality and his incredible drive to succeed. He has already achieved so much in his glittering career, but he is still grounded and is hungry for more. We here at EiF wish Diego and the New England Revolution all the best for the upcoming season. We will be waiting with baited breath as the beginning of the 2017 MLS season draws ever closer…
Write-up by Nick Hawkins