FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Diego Fagundez has spent most of the last month riding the bench and hasn’t had a prolific season, though he showed on Wednesday night that he may deserve to be a bigger part of New England Revolution head coach Bruce Arena’s plans going forward.
Fagundez came off the bench in the 79th minute of the Revolution’s 4-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps at Gillette Stadium and scored his team’s second goal of the evening within three minutes of his introduction.
He jumped into the air, unmarked in the penalty area, and headed Cristian Penilla’s right-footed cross from the left flank in off the far post. It was Fagundez’s first goal of the season and the 51st of his professional career. It also put him in a tie with Lee Nguyen for second place on the Revolution’s all-time goals list.
“I don’t remember the last time I scored, it’s been a while,” Fagundez said after the game, though he was quickly alerted that it was his first goal since Oct. 28, 2018.
“I needed this one,” he added. “I’ve been working hard in training and it’s one of those things where you’re not playing a lot, and balls don’t go your way, but today I got lucky and finally got one. This is the day I can say that maybe more will come. I know before, the first one was always the hard one for me.
“Now I just have to keep looking forward and keeping working hard and making sure that when I get opportunities to try and go in and change a game that I change it.”
Fagundez, who turned 24 in February, has been with the Revolution’s senior team since he signed a contract as the club’s first homegrown player in 2011.
His status on the team has been mercurial ever since – one moment he’s a sensation and the future of the franchise, and the next he’s struggling for playing time. He was once a transfer target for Atalanta and Fiorentina in Italy’s Serie A, and then a few months later no foreign teams are willing to pay a moderate fee to get him out of MLS.
Fagundez has started three of the Revolution’s last seven league games and had one assist to his name this season before his performance off the bench on Wednesday night. But, he may be another example of a player looking to re-establish himself under Arena’s new tactics.
“When you come off the bench, that’s the first thing you want to do – it’s bring energy and bring a spark to the team,” Fagundez said. “My confidence is definitely going to boost up now, no matter if I’m starting, if I’m on the bench… Sometimes you only get 10 minutes, sometimes you only get five, sometimes 90.
“Whatever chance I get, an opportunity, I’m just going to make sure I go out there and have fun and do what I can to help the Revs.”
New England is now unbeaten in nine league games and is in the thick of a tight race for the Eastern Conference’s seventh and final playoff spot. There are 13 regular season matches to go.
Are the Revolution a threat to playoff teams in MLS?
“Yes, especially when you go nine games unbeaten,” Fagundez said. “I think we know we’re a great team. I think we knew from the beginning, it was just putting in the pieces the right way, and right now I think everyone’s doing that.
“Everyone’s working hard, I think everybody’s working for each other and we’re doing everything we can to make sure we’re winning games. That’s what matters at the end of the day.”