FOXBOROUGH — Diego Fagundez will be going a different route than his Revolution teammates after Saturday night’s game against the Philadelphia Union. Instead of flying home, Fagundez will travel to Montevideo to join Uruguay’s Under-20 team.
Fagundez, 17, plans to return for the Revolution’s final home game of the season, against Chicago Oct. 20. But the invitation to join Uruguay’s national team program could mean Fagundez’s days with the Revolution are numbered.
“Anybody who plays for the national team, I guess you get more people to see you,” Fagundez said. “Of course, the national team just opens up everything for you. It’s just different than playing in a club. You see a different style of play and so many different things — you do see them in a club but not as much.”
Most of Uruguay’s star performers progress through the U20 team before going on to careers in Europe.
“They started with the youth team and developed into bigger clubs,” Fagundez said. “And that’s the smart way to start, that’s the way I would look at it.”
But Fagundez is not planning to follow that career path right away. Asked if this call-up meant he would be moving on, Fagundez replied, “I wouldn’t say that, because I have my contract here. And it all depends on what happens.
“From here until something happens, no one knows. It’s a matter of time, right now.”
Fagundez signed a four-year contract two years ago and has been playing regularly for the Revolution recently. He scored three goals in six appearances (314 minutes) last season and has one goal in 17 games (five starts) this year.
Fagundez moved to Leominster when he was a 5-year-old, progressing by age 9 to the state U12 team, then was called to the US U14 team. But Fagundez has been unable to secure US citizenship, closing the door on any hopes of playing for the US.
“It’s good for Diego to go in and get a sense for it, and get the experience,” said Revolution coach Jay Heaps. “He’s getting big, high-level minutes and he can go there and be a leader and get some exposure.”
Talking about Fagundez’s horizons opening, Heaps said, “Diego is 17. And it’s not always about just the team. There’s individuals here, and we look at in that regard.
“Diego’s made huge progression. Last year he was thrust in at certain times to score goals, and now he’s helping the team in the battle of a season, playing tough minutes in tough games. That’s a lot different than coming in at the end of games like last year.
“And I really think he’s prepared himself. He’s learned how to scout, set himself up in the week for Saturday, and he’s really taken to that. You can see it in his game. He has the ability and instincts. Now he’s adding that awareness of who he’s playing against and that’s going to take him to the next level.
“Even though he’s not scoring goals, I think he’s improving. You can’t base it all on goals.
“We’re still finding the right, exact position for him. He’s obviously an attacking player but I don’t know if he’s definitely a forward or should be playing underneath the two forwards, or he’s a ‘false 9.’
“He set up a goal for Kelyn [Rowe] by reading a run by Jerry [Bengtson] and that’s really important. He set up a goal for Dimitry [Imbongo] and that was an instinctual run off another player, and you can’t teach that.”
Uruguay’s national teams are composed almost entirely of home-grown players. But Fagundez maintains strong connections to the country through his father, Washington, a former professional goalkeeper.
Fagundez, listed at 5 feet 8 inches, 140 pounds, has displayed durability this season.
“Like I always say, body, age, nothing matters right now,” Fagundez said. “You just have to play smart. People are a lot stronger and bigger than me, but I still don’t take that as them taking advantage over me. I just come out and have fun and do the best I can.
“I think I improved more defensively and I think I’m a little stronger this year. There are a lot of things I’m doing better.
“Last year I didn’t have a lot of confidence because I didn’t play until the last couple of games. I’m playing more this year and, after I got my goal, I got my confidence. I think every time you do something good, you get a little more confident and you just go with it.
“It is a different role. Like, last year, I got those two goals and finished them. This year I got one and I finished and one at Toronto where the goalie made a good save.
“I think if I keep making those chances I’ll be scoring goals. There are a lot of ways. If you get an assist, you’re helping the team and everyone sees you as a good player.”
Frank Dell'Apa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.