It had been my intention this afternoon to write-up a pretty standard match report on last night’s New England Revolution win over the Philadelphia Union, but the more I thought about it, and particularly the winning goal scored by Diego Fagundez, the more annoyed I became.
Last night’s match was not a pretty one, the Revs willed their way to a road victory despite the play of Union goalkeeper Andre Blake (keep an eye on him in the future!) and despite players like Philadelphia’s Cristian Maidana who decided, “I’ve already barged Lee Nguyen from behind in full view of the referee and earned a yellow card, why don’t I go ahead and spit on him while he’s on the ground and earn a red?” He did. And he did. So, with both clubs fighting tooth and nail for the victory- and the playoff implications that would go along with it- it came down to one moment and one goal. Fagundez’s goal. Watch it at the 2:25 mark.
Not one defender stepped to Fagundez, they all just drifted along with him as he brought the ball from left to right across the top of the 18 yard box. Fagundez then, without breaking stride, cut the ball back into the lefthand corner of the net, wrong-footing Blake and making a fool out of defender Richie Marquez. I may be guilty of being a “homer,” but for me, that goal had as much to do with Fagundez’s ability as a player as it did with the lack of respect that opponents seem to have for him and his ability. “No worries, we’ll just track him as he moves across, he can’t score from there.” He did. He does. He’s good.
On one level, I understand it. Fagundez made is senior debut (in a U.S. Open Cup match) only a few weeks after his 16th birthday. He was young, looked even younger because he was small, and Freddy Adu has soured pretty much every MLS fan ever on buying into any teenage player as being the “next big thing.” However, that debut was four and a half years ago. In that time Fagundez has become the first teenager to play in 100 MLS matches and the youngest MLS player ever to score 25 goals (last night’s goal was his 25) To that total he has also added 19 assists, he’s been to MLS cup, and he’s a become a regular with the Uruguayan U20* team.
Is he still young? Yes, he doesn’t turn 21 until February and still lives at home. Is he still small? Sort of. He’s 5’8″ and probably between 140-150lbs. But having said that, Joao Plata and Sebastian Giovinco (among others) are much smaller and get plenty of respect. Is each of his haircuts more dodgy than the last? Yup. But this is in a league where Lee Nguyen, Gyasi Zardez and others are way out ahead of him in the realm of bad hair decisions. So, my overall point is, as a professional footballer he is- like it or not- a veteran. He’s in his fifth season as a professional, on his way to becoming an international player for a very good footballing nation, oh, right, and he can do things like this:
*mainly because U.S. immigration/citizenship laws meant playing for the U.S. at any level was going to take years and despite the fact that he has lived in Leominster (“Lem-in-ster” if you’re from outside New England), MA since he was five.