FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Diego Fagundez wasn’t quite sure what to expect when he joined up with the Uruguay Under-20 National Team for a six-day training camp in Montevideo last week.
Fagundez had never before been a part of Uruguay’s national team setup after moving from his birth country to Leominster, Mass., when he was just five years old, and his most recent visit was on a family vacation last November. The teenager entered the camp with an air of caution, but quickly realized any concerns about being considered an outsider were unfounded.
“I wasn’t expecting them to [welcome] me like family, but all of them brought me into the family,” said Fagundez, who has since returned to training with the Revolution. “It wasn’t that I had to earn my respect from them. It was more, ‘Come here, join our family and hopefully we can see what you’ve got.’”
There were multiple opportunities for Fagundez to prove himself on the field, including a pair of friendly matches against Peru’s Under-20 side. Featuring in a withdrawn attacking role – underneath the target forward – he appeared as a substitute in both games, playing 15 minutes in a 0-0 draw and 45 minutes in a 2-1 win.
It was a new experience for Fagundez, who’s grown accustomed to being a 17-year-old amongst adults in the Revolution’s locker room and on the field against MLS opponents. Although he was still one of the younger players in Uruguay’s U20 camp, Fagundez welcomed the opportunity to play with others in his own age bracket.
“Playing with [the Revs], they’re a lot older,” said Fagundez. “Then going to Uruguay and playing with people almost my age and a year older, it’s a lot different. I felt like I was playing with the Academy again, so it wasn’t a different style of play. It was more competitive … because right now everyone’s trying out to see who’s going to go to the [South American Youth Championship] in January.”
Uruguay will be part of a five-team group featuring Brazil, Ecuador, Peru and Venezuela at the South American Youth Championship, which will be held from Jan. 9 to Feb. 3 in Argentina. The four semifinalists in that competition – which features 10 total teams – will book their places at the 2013 FIFA Under-20 World Cup, to be held in Turkey next summer.
While Fagundez would love to represent Uruguay at the South American Youth Championship – “Right now I just have to relax, finish the season off here and see what happens,” he said – the Revolution’s first-ever Homegrown Player is currently still soaking in the experience of his first U20 camp.
“I’m really glad (I went to the camp),” Fagundez said. “I got to see a lot of family members, meet new people, play with different players that are my age and a little older. It’s always a good experience when you play against a new team and they welcome you a different way.”