FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – It took a bit longer than he may have expected, but New England Revolution forward Diego Fagundez finally made his first appearance in the starting lineup this season in last Saturday's 2-2 draw at Toronto FC.
“It felt really nice for me to start,” Fagundez told MLSsoccer.com. “I was expecting this chance for a while. Once I heard that I was going to start, my mind was focused on the game to see how I was going to do.”
Fagundez's partner on the day, Saër Sène, has also provided his primary roadblock to first-team football. Revolution coach Jay Heaps has generally preferred to partner Sène with a more physical forward such as Blake Brettschneider or José Moreno. That particular preference – and Sène's production in front of goal – has left Fagundez on the sidelines waiting for his chance.
The calculus changed prior to the trip to BMO Field as Heaps wanted to pair two quicker and shiftier forwards up front to catch the Reds off guard.
“It's been difficult because Saër has played so well,” Heaps said. “Maybe there are times when Saër isn't playing as well, but you always feel like he's going to get something. He's just around it, so it's hard to take him off. The other day was really to see if we could have them pull [together] just a little bit. I thought they did well when we added Blake in and we went with three. I like that we have a lot of options.”
Fagundez's performance – including a shot deflected off the crossbar by TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic in the first half – will ensure he remains among the potential choices for Saturday's game against Seattle, but Heaps said the 17-year-old striker must continue to show he deserves time on the field.
“I thought Diego, overall, had a nice game,” Heaps said. “It's good to get him minutes and he deserved every one of those minutes. Now it's going to be a fight for time.”
Nyassi back in the mix
Revolution winger Sainey Nyassi returned to the active roster on Wednesday after a lengthy stint on the Disabled List. That particular boost – particularly after three appearances in the reserve league – could place Nyassi in contention to make his first appearance of the season against Sounders FC.
Youth teams struggle in Development Academy playoffs
Both Revolution Academy teams will likely wrap up their seasons this week after completing group play in the Development Academy playoffs in Frisco, Texas.
The U-18 side concluded its slate with one point from three matches (0-2-1) after a 3-1 defeat to Charlotte Soccer Academy (North Carolina) on Thursday afternoon. That mark ensures the group will miss out on a place in the finals.
The U-16 side (0-1-1) will finish its three-game set with a Friday morning match against Dallas Texans, but the Revs will miss out on the one berth available into the finals unless they beat the Texans and Albertson SC (Great Neck, N.Y.) defeats group leaders Pateadores (Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif.). Even in that scenario, the Revs must overturn a four-goal deficit to Pateadores to top the group on goal differential.