MLSsoccer.com polled 20 of our editors, writers, videographers and statistics specialists to bring you the Best of 2013, running Dec. 23 through Jan. 1. Each day we'll hand out an award in a variety of categories culled from the storylines of MLS, including Biggest Controversy, Gaffe of the Year and, via fan vote revealed on Dec. 29, the Moment of the Year.
New media editor Andrew Wiebe was given the task of looking into the future for the latest award. The MLS Breakout Player of 2014 award goes to New England Revolution youngster Diego Fagundez, who looks to join the likes of past breakout stars Chris Wondolowski, Brek Shea and Matt Besler in their rise up the ladder in MLS.
You better believe US Under-20 national team boss Tab Ramos pined after the services of Diego Fagundez this summer at the World Cup in Turkey.
There may come a day – sooner rather than later, if a standout 2013 was any indication – that Jurgen Klinsmann is calling up the 18-year-old at his parents' house to see how Fagundez’s quest for United States citizenship is coming.
That is, if Uruguay (or Europe) don’t get to Major League Soccer’s next breakout star first.
He may have already scored 13 goals as a teenager, not to mention adding seven assists in 2013 as the New England Revolution returned to the playoffs for the first time since 2009, but there’s little doubt there’s plenty more in store from the still diminutive but undeniably productive young attacker and MLSsoccer.com’s Breakout Player of the Year for 2014.
- BEST OF 2013: Check out the complete list of awards
“I think everything is on the table for this kid,” Revs head coach Jay Heaps told MLSsoccer.com in October. “He continues to get better and hopefully he continues that trajectory. That's the key. Can he continue to perform for a few years? Then all those things — Europe, what national team, it all comes into play.”
For now, at least, Fagundez – a terror on the run and an opportunistic finisher who flourished alongside New England’s cadre of precocious talent – is a Rev. Another season like the last one and he may go the way of English Premier League import Brek Shea, the 2011 Breakout winner and current Stoke City winger.
“I honestly don't know if I was expecting to get so many starts,” says Fagundez, who started eight times in 2012 then 28 last year. “But once I started getting more minutes, the confidence boosted up. Then the first goal came, then the second, and my confidence kept going higher.”
And it doesn’t figure to drop anytime soon. Stay tuned.
2. Dillon Powers, Colorado Rapids
It’s too bad concussion symptoms cut Powers’ season short, because the Rapids sure could have used the Rookie of the Year in their make-or-break playoff game against Seattle. Though pegged as underwhelming physical coming out of Notre Dame, Powers showed that guile, technical ability, size and strength still go a long way as he cemented himself as one of the league’s rising two-way talents. Is he a Best XI selection waiting to happen?
3. Gyasi Zardes, LA Galaxy
He may have been a bit wayward in front of net during a season spent largely in Mike Magee’s vacated spot on the wing, but there’s little doubt the 22-year-old will improve on his four-goal, four-assist season in Year 2. Big things to come.