Heading into the 2013 season, New England Revolution fans were most excited by the presence and potential growth of then-18 year old Homegrown attacker Diego Fagundez. In 2012 he'd appeared 20 times, playing 770 minutes while notching two goals and two assists.
Fagundez was small and smart and quick and not flashy, and that proved to be the perfect combo since he blew away all expectations that season by notching 13 goals (most ever by a teenager in MLS) and seven assists. He was almost never the dominant player on the field, but displayed a Chris Wondolowski-esque ability to find the right spots in the box and convert with a single touch. As one opposing coach said to me last season, "The thing with Diego that he's always understood, that some kids struggle to understand, is that you don't need a ton of room to score a goal. You just need to be in the right spot and you need to not hesitate."
That's mostly how Fagundez scored his goals in 2013. Then he struggled a bit with injuries in 2014 (when his output dropped from 13 goals to five), but still largely remained the same player.
And then this came along in a 2015 season in which Fagundez scored six goals total:
(Feel free to gawk at that Giovinco stat for a minute or two)
Fagundez scored four of his six goals from outside the area last year, which speaks to two things. First is that he's become a better, more confident striker of the ball from distance. Second is that his finishing touch -- or perhaps his finishing instinct -- has somewhat deserted him inside the 18, and thus his 2013 season is starting to look more and more like an outlier rather than a repeatable phenomenon.
That's problematic because, to borrow a turn of phrase, repeatability is the holy grail of soccer statistics. And goals scored from inside the 18 are orders of magnitude more repeatable than those from outside.
This isn't the evolution I expected from Fagundez, especially because he's still so quick and clever in the box. Part of it may come down to random variation, and other parts of it may come down to how his role has changed since 2013 as Lee Nguyen and Chris Tierney have become bigger parts of the New England attack. Nguyen loves to operate in that center-left channel, while Tierney is one of the league's best and most aggressive overlapping fullbacks. That means the bulk of back-post chances the Revs create fall to the right winger (Teal Bunbury or Kelyn Rowe), rather than to the left winger -- which is where Fagundez usually lines up.
See how much they tilt the field?
Revs fans are still right to be excited about Fagundez, and excited about the fact that their team should compete for top of the Eastern Conference. The pieces are in place, and nobody should really be that surprised if they claim their first Supporters' Shield. They're that good.
I can't help wondering, though, if flipping Fagundez out to the right side every now and then might help him rediscover his scoring touch. The back post beckons, and that's where he's always done his best work.
This is the eighth in a daily series counting down to to the MLS regular season first kick on March 6. I'm using Paul Carr's tweets (with his blessing) to examine some of the bigger storylines to follow in the upcoming season.
- 18 days out Examining David Villa's role for NYCFC
- 17 days out Can Larin replicate his rookie year heroics?
- 16 days out A new spot and new concerns for Giovinco
- 15 days out New start begins at the back for Chicago
- 14 days out Sporting can create, but who'll finish?
- 13 days out Young-at-the-back Union flipping the script
- 12 days out JaviMo squares off against Father Time
- 11 days out Drogba's magic, but Impact need a Plan B