FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Diego Fagundez is taking nothing for granted.
Following a breakout 2013 campaign in which he led the New England Revolution with 13 goals and tacked on seven assists, league-wide expectations for Fagundez – who turns 19 on Friday – are soaring. Pundits are openly wondering not only whether the young phenom is a legitimate Golden Boot contender, but when he’ll break into the national team scene.
Such a reaction is to be expected when a teenager ties for fifth in the league in goals, notably ahead of players like Thierry Henry, Landon Donovan and Chris Wondolowski. But Fagundez isn’t letting himself get carried away with the hype. Right now, he’s not worried about how many goals he’ll score.
Right now, three weeks into preseason, he’s just trying to guarantee himself a spot in the starting lineup.
“We have a lot of new players and your spot could be easily taken, so I have to go out there and keep showing [head coach Jay Heaps] that I should be out there. That’s number one,” said Fagundez. “Then of course I want to just keep helping out with the team however I can.”
Last year, Fagundez contributed by being the Revolution’s go-to goal scorer and one of the club’s primary setup men. He’s expected to play a prominent role in the attacking third once again this season, but Heaps is eager to see a more rounded contribution from Fagundez as his game continues to develop.
“He’s changed a lot of games scoring a lot of goals, but now we want to see his consistency,” said Heaps. “Can he get more touches? Can he help us more in team possession or team defending, and really keep the ball and keep the sequence going?
“We know he can score. We know he has off-the-chart ability, and what I saw from him last year was a complete picture of what he can be. Now you add more consistency and we’re talking about a national team player.”
By all indications, Fagundez is locked into his coach’s direction, touting team objectives over individual aspirations whenever possible. When pressed, however, New England’s wunderkind does admit that he’d love to better his 13-goal haul from last season in 2014.
But that’s not his primary objective.
“We all want to score more goals than we had last year, so I think in my head, that’s always going to be there,” Fagundez said. “But right now, I’m just trying to keep working hard. I’d rather win an MLS Cup than score as many goals as I can. That’s more important for me.”