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New England's Chara: The drive that fuels Revs' surprise star Luis Caicedo

Upon signing Luis Caicedo early in the 2018 season, New England Revolution coach Brad Friedel quickly likened him to Diego Chara of the Portland Timbers.

It was a lofty comparison given how Chara, also hailing from Colombia, has cemented himself as one of the elite holding midfielders in Major League Soccer. But the 22-year-old embraces the analogy – also with a nod to a certain French World Cup-winning midfielder.

“I do think I have a lot of similarities with him [Diego Chara] in the fight and commitment on the field,” Caicedo said. “I also watch a lot of N’Golo Kante, the Frenchman. I watch a lot of videos – I love that player.”

With those two role models, Caicedo has shown why the Revs shelled out Targeted Allocation Money to acquire him on loan from Colombian side Cortulua, with the option to purchase in 2019.

He started 16 consecutive games before missing out on Wednesday’s 2-1 loss at Minnesota United, playing all across the midfield and even at winger. Caicedo, ever diplomatic, said “wherever the coach wants me to play I have no problem playing,” though the bulk of his minutes have come as a No. 6, just like Chara and Kante.

It’s that role which excites attacking midfielder Diego Fagundez, especially from an early-season conversation with Friedel about the former Sporting Lisbon reserve player and Colombia U-20 national teamer.

“Coach was showing me videos of him and he said he likes to play strong soccer and likes to go into tackles,” Fagundez said. “You knew what you were getting. Since day one, he brings that energy and that fight and never wants to give up around the ball.”

Before seeing Caicedo’s dogged, relentless approach, many were left wondering why Friedel would use TAM on a previously unproven player. Fagundez, who’s on pace for his best season production-wise since 2013, said low expectations were premature.

“When you hear a 21-year-old is signing, a lot of people just say, ‘oh, another young kid,’” Fagundez said, “but you can’t judge someone by numbers or what team they come from.”

Caicedo tuned out all that noise, something he’s done his whole life. Back home, he said people used to question why he was pursuing soccer, that it wouldn’t offer him a livelihood.

He, in turn, used that to fuel his competitive drive, but no more so than his dependence on family.

“Everything is for them,” Caicedo said. “So much so that when I’m tired, I tell myself ‘this overlap is for my dad’ or ‘this sprint is for my mom’ or ‘this goes for my sister.’ It gives me energy when I don’t have any left.”