New England signed 15-year-old Diego Fagundez.
Courtesy of New England Revolution

NE's Fagundez grapples with pro transition

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The responsibility on Diego Fagundez's shoulders increased substantially from the moment he signed his first professional contract.

The new deal carried several duties most 15-year-olds do not bear on a day-to-day basis. Fagundez's life meshes his school work and his role within the Revolution's academy setup. In short, he now has a job with far more responsibility than the part-time gigs most teenagers work, and carries a load far more significant than the one most of his fellow classmates at Leominster High School bear – one with a particularly difficult objective at the end of the road.

Fagundez must ultimately find a way to transition from promising prospect to established first-team player.

The first step on that successful path starts with his commitment to the final objective. Despite his youth, the Revolution's first homegrown signing understands the weight of his role within the organization and believes he needs to apply himself earnestly in order to work his way toward a permanent place in the first team.

“I'm going to keep playing like I am and keep developing,” Fagundez told MLSsoccer.com last month.

The onus falls on the Revolution organization to discern how to encourage Fagundez's development along its proper path without restricting his growth. In order to push Fagundez forward, Revolution director of youth development Bryan Scales believes the club must continue to place new hurdles in his path.

“There are a lot of different priorities, but, at the end of the day, the most important thing for Diego is that he is in a challenging environment that is still age appropriate,” Scales said last month. “It's our job as an academy to move him along those steps at this stage of his career.”

Staying on the right course inevitably includes assuming the correct pace. Lauded prospects around the world have fallen short at the final hurdle when asked to accelerate their development a bit too quickly in order to suit the needs of the first team. Those pressures won't impair Fagundez's chances of success with the Revs, according to Scales.

“You want to make sure that you don't rush it along,” Scales said. “We don't expect him to be in with the first team and playing with the first team on Saturday nights in the spring. We can nurture him and make sure we're giving him more challenges to get him ready for the next step.”

The interim period leaves Fagundez in an interesting netherworld between the academy and the first team. As the only homegrown player in the Revs' academy program, he draws more attention and merits more skepticism even as he performs his star term during the academy season. As a prospect for the first team, he is patiently waiting for the day when he can make the transition to playing in reserve matches, training with the senior club and, ultimately, establishing himself as a fixture in the starting XI.

It isn't easy for a teenager to assume the responsibility of waiting to realize his ultimate dream. Fortunately for the Revs, Fagundez appears to understands the additional responsibility created by dangling between those two worlds and vows to work with the team to accomplish his goals.

“I think they fit together,” Fagundez said. “You're doing what you love to do. When the academy calls you, you play like you usually do. When the first team calls you up, you're just going to do your best.”

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