FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The New England Revolution have signed 15-year-old midfielder Diego Fagundez to a Home Grown contract, the club announced on Monday.
Fagundez, a Leominster, Mass., resident and a midfielder/forward for the Revolution's U-16 academy team, becomes the first product of the Revolution's academy system to sign a deal with the first team.
“We look at this as the start,” Revolution vice president of player personnel Michael Burns told MLSsoccer.com. “This isn't the end because he signed a contract with us. We look at this as the beginning and that is how he has to approach it. He hasn't made it because he signed a contract, but he is the first player in our academy program to have this opportunity. Everything is right in front of him.”
This first step arrived because Fagundez excelled during his first year as a member of the Revolution's academy system. Fagundez scored 20 goals for the Revs U-16s and earned a place in the US Soccer Developmental Academy's national starting XI for the 2009-10 campaign.
Those promising performances may have made this move possible, but they will not guarantee Fagundez a place in the first team when the Revs start their season in 2011. Fagundez will continue his studies at Leominster High School and maintain his place in the Revolution Academy as he enters his first season under contract with the club.
However, the homegrown deal does allow Fagundez the opportunity to train with the Revs' first team and potentially appear in friendlies and – if the system is restored prior to the 2011 season as expected – reserve matches for New England if and when he is deemed ready to do so.
“It is not our expectation – and we've made this clear to Diego – that come the middle of March, he'll be walking out onto the field wearing No. 10 and being our playmaker,” Burns said. “But it's a way to incorporate him into the first team when [manager Steve Nicol] and the coaches feel it is appropriate. If and when that day comes, he's eligible to play for the first team.”
It took some time to sort out Fagundez's promotion from the academy ranks. Fagundez hails from Montevideo, Uruguay, and does not currently hold American citizenship. Burns and Fagundez spent a week in Ottawa last month to secure the P1 work visa required to consummate the deal, a process made considerably more difficult by Fagundez's underage status.
“There was a lot of time, a lot of work and a lot of effort that went into this to get it done,” Burns said. “We're very excited for the program and for Diego. Hopefully, this is going to inspire the players in the program to say, 'Hey, I want to be the next guy.'”
Whether or not Fagundez progresses into a regular role with the first team or inspires others to follow in his footsteps, his newly minted status as a Home Grown player represents the first tangible sign of success since the fully funded Revolution Academy started in April 2008.
“When we first talked about this program a couple of years ago, this was the goal,” Burns said. “The goal is to have some players to come through the program and play for us.”