TUCSON, Ariz. – Diego Fagundez has quite literally found himself at the center of the New England Revolution’s attack through much of the 2018 preseason.
Fagundez has been used primarily as a winger throughout his first seven MLS seasons – 25 of his 27 starts last year came on the left side of midfield – but new head coach Brad Friedel has used the creative attacker in a central playmaking role in the Revs’ first four preseason matches.
Given the freedom to roam and find the ball, Fagundez has been a consistent spark, and he celebrated his 23rd birthday with a dramatic late equalizer in the Revs’ 2-2 draw with FC Dallas on Wednesday, beginning the scoring sequence with some clever footwork before lashing home Kelyn Rowe’s cross.
While central attacking midfield is a position that Fagundez hasn’t featured at often at the professional level, it’s a role that he’s not only comfortable playing, but also prefers, having spent the majority of his youth career in the middle of the field.
“I’ve always played the No. 10 my whole life, so it’s a quick adaption,” said Fagundez, who has been used centrally in U.S. Open Cup games in previous years. “Now I need to start trying to get better at it. I think every game, every practice that I’ve been doing it, I’ve been getting better. So now I just have to take it to the next step and hopefully do better.”
Fagundez has formed a quick bond with the newcomer occupying his previous position, Cristian Penilla, who has been electric getting up and down the left wing. The duo have combined to create multiple chances in four preseason appearances, and Fagundez says a shared love for creativity and a common language have been the ties that bind.
“Since the first day Cristian Penilla’s been here, [we’ve] connected well, not just on the field, but off the field,” Fagundez said. “Our Spanish kind of helps out, so we try to work with each other, get the ball to each other, and when we have our chances to play one-twos with each other, it’s an easier game.
“He’s so fast that when I get the ball, the first thing I do is try to look for him so he can go one-on-one at players.”