October 9, 2011


Soccer phenom opts to learn from the pros (Frank Dell'Apa, 2/07/11, Boston Globe)

Young athletes often dream of becoming professionals. In some cases, they even forgo college to take their chances on the big time.

Leominster's Diego Fagundez is an even rarer exception. Fagundez is not only going to skip college, he will be bypassing much of high school as well to pursue a pro soccer career.

In November, Fagundez, 15, became the youngest player since Freddy Adu to sign a Major League Soccer contract when he joined the New England Revolution. And when he joins the Revolution first team for practice this month, Fagundez will be going head to head with veterans twice his age, including tough tackling midfielders such as Shalrie Joseph.

"I think it would be a fight for me and a challenge,'' Fagundez said of training sessions with the Revolution. "But I think I would do good. Even if I'm on the floor 100 times, I'll still get up, and I'll keep fighting.''

During the fall semester, Fagundez kept normal school hours at Leominster High (his favorite subject is algebra) but did not play for the school soccer team, instead performing for the Revolution Academy, the team's youth development program.

Now, while classmates do their studies and his friends from the soccer team take a break from the sport, Fagundez will probably switch to night class in order to work out with the Revolution during daily practices. The Revolution have stipulated that Fagundez continue to progress toward a high school diploma, but his playing ambitions could take priority as the team prepares for the MLS season. [...]

Rooted in the game Fagundez's father, Washington, was a professional goalkeeper in Uruguay, where soccer runs deep (the country hosted and won the initial World Cup in 1930). Diego was born into that culture, named after a teammate of his father's, Diego Dorta, a former national team midfielder, and so enthralled with the game he brought a soccer ball along with him to school.

"In one hand the soccer ball, in the other hand the books,'' Washington Fagundez said.

Said Diego: "I was 1 1/2 when I first started kicking a soccer ball. I set up bottles like bowling pins and tried to knock them down. I kept doing that and then my dad got me into a team.''

Washington enrolled 3-year-old Diego in a club program. Two years later, Washington and Alicia Fagundez moved to Leominster for financial reasons.

"Players don't make good money [in Uruguay],'' Washington said. "I came here for the opportunity. I have been working for a painting company but, right now, I'm the driver -- I give my son rides to practice.''

Washington, who made his professional debut at 17, was fully in favor of his son's signing. "I think this is your first step in soccer, I think he has a good chance to play'' for the Revolution, he said.

Diego has been playing up since he was 9, in 2004. That year, coach Mario Prata brought Diego to perform in the state Under 13 team.

Fagundez, Wondolowski and Feilhaber should all have been in Miami, not Foxboro, last night.

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Posted by at October 9, 2011 8:12 AM

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