FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – After playing a peripheral role in the first three matches of the season, New England Revolution forward Diego Fagundez emerged from the shadows over the weekend.
Fagundez buckled down in training after failing to feature in the past two matches and earned a place in the starting XI for Saturday's 1-0 home defeat to Western Conference leaders FC Dallas.
Revolution coach Jay Heaps handed Fagundez the chance to impress from the outset in a bid to perk up his side's sputtering attack. Fagundez embraced the challenge willingly as he attempted to state his claims for a place in the team.
“I'm loving it,” Fagundez told MLSsoccer.com. “I got 80-something minutes. It felt like I had been playing for a while. Training has been going well for me. Once I stepped on the field, it was game on for me.”
The starting assignment came with a twist, though: Heaps deployed Fagundez on the left side of midfield instead of naming him up front to partner Jerry Bengtson. The move represented a modest shift from Fagundez's usual role as a second striker, but it also placed him in a spot where he possessed more space to run at the opposition.
The benefits of the transition emerged early in the affair. Fagundez placed himself into dangerous areas and showed glimpses of why Heaps turned to him to help inject more ideas in the attacking third.
“I'm really comfortable,” Fagundez said. “I like going one-on-one versus defenders. I like moving around, especially when you have good players like Juan [Toja], Lee [Nguyen], Ryan [Guy] and Jerry [Bengtson]. We can move it around and get open.”
Fagundez's contributions to the cause prompted Heaps to leave him on the field a bit longer than intended as the Revs attempted to end their goal drought and find a way through the FCD rearguard during the second half.
“I knew Diego was tired and I knew he hadn't played 90 yet, but he seemed so positive in what he was doing,” Heaps said. “I didn't want to take him out too soon.”
Fagundez will hope those sentiments persist through the bye weekend as he attempts to earn a second consecutive start at Seattle on April 13.