FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – For a player of his small stature, New England Revolution forward Diego Fagundez wins more than his fair share of headers.
The secret – once again revealed with his 94th-minute equalizer in Saturday night's 2-2 draw with the Seattle Sounders – to his aerial success revolves around his clever movements inside the penalty area.
He may not have the physique to muscle opposing defenders out of the way, but he certainly knows how to find his way around them.
HIGHLIGHTS: NE 2, SEA 2
“I don't think it's about the battle,” Fagundez told MLSsoccer.com. “I think it's about whoever gets to the ball first. Usually, when I'm looking for that spot, I'm looking to get open instead of trying to hit the defenders. I'm open, always.”
Take, for example, his ability to work his way into the right spot to nod home Fernando Cardenas' cross and secure a point against Seattle. As Saer Sene took a defender or two toward the near post, Fagundez floated into the vacated space at the back stick and slotted himself into position to convert his first goal of the season.
This isn't the first time he has nipped in to convert a header against Seattle – he scored in a similar fashion on his first MLS start last October – or found a way to exploit open pockets of space inside the penalty area.
“He's great at [finding those spaces],” Revolution midfielder Benny Feilhaber said. “I remember last year, he scored a goal like that off of a corner kick as well. You don't see him. You don't see him in the box and, all of a sudden, he's scoring a goal. It's like those running backs, nobody sees them between the big guys and nobody marks them.”
Those shifty qualities help Fagundez find his way into the right spots, but Revolution boss Jay Heaps said his 17-year-old striker possessed the necessary ability to take advantage of the somewhat unexpected aerial opportunities he creates with his movement.
“He was sharp, he's been sharp this week and he was sharp last week,” Heaps said. “He was due.”