The New England Revolution youngster has emerged as one of the most exciting teenagers to ever come through Major League Soccer, but he has yet to pick a national team.As reigning MLS MVP Mike Magee prepared to walk out of the elevator at a recent MLS media event, he was halted by a precocious teenager who couldn't quite wait for the people getting off the elevator to exit. No, Diego Fagundez just jumped right in, as most teenagers might who are oblivious to elevator etiquette.
The incident brought a smile to Magee's face. Having been a teenager in MLS a decade ago, he surely knows that Fagundez is simply living as a teen - waiting for nobody, in a hurry to enjoy a life and career just beginning to blossom.
Fagundez is the 19-year-old goal-scoring sensation who emerged last year to post the most productive season in the history of MLS for a teenager. His 13 goals and seven assists helped transform New England from a club that hadn't made the playoffs in years to one of the more exciting attacking outfits in MLS.
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So why haven't you heard more about him? It could be in part because he isn't a part of the U.S. youth national team setup, and isn't someone regularly discussed as being considered the future of American soccer.
Fagundez is not a U.S. citizen, at least not yet, having been born in Uruguay before moving to America at the age of 5. That fact has been what has kept Fagundez from being completely thrown into the American soccer hype machine, which normally anoints talented teenagers as saviors long before they're really ready for it.
In a way, that is probably best for Fagundez, who you almost feel realizes what is awaiting him if and when he winds up playing for the United States.
"I have no idea what's going on," said Fagundez when asked about the status of his citizenship application. "All I know is everything is in the works. I have no idea what's going on. I don't sweat about it. I'll just keep living day by day."
So how close is Fagundez to playing for the United States? The answer is not all that close. Having just secured his permanent resident status (green card) last October, Fagundez is looking at as much as a four-year wait before being granted American citizenship.
Though still ineligible to represent the United States, Fagundez has taken part in Under-20 national team camps with Uruguay, so he is on the South American country's radar. As for whether that experience makes Uruguay a more likely national team choice for him, Fagundez isn't ready to lay out any allegiances.
"Right now I'm not really thinking about playing for a national team," he said. "I'm trying to focus more on the Revs. Of course, if a chance comes, then that's when i can start talking about it. Right now I'm trying to keep focused and try to do everything I can to keep helping out the Revs."
|Fagundez is among a pretty elite group of teenage goalscorers in the history of MLS, trailing only Eddie Gaven (16) with 15 goals. That number ties the total put up by Jozy Altidore and has him ahead of both Freddy Adu and Andy Najar. Fagundez is also the youngest player in the history of the league to score double-digit goals in a season.|
"I'm not going to commit to root for just one team because I haven't represented either team yet," Fagundez said. "The day I represent a country and wear the shirt, I can say that's the country I will represent in every way. The country that I will represent in my heart.
"There is still time. For now I'm not nervous and I'm focused on soccer, and hopefully one day a national team will call me.
"I would love to play in this World Cup, but right now I'm unable to do that," Fagundez said. "I would love to play in it, but if no national team calls me then there's nothing I can do."
Fagundez makes it seem pretty clear that he will play for the national team that calls him up first, but with his American citizenship potentially not coming until late 2017, and with Uruguay stacked with talent on its senior team, Fagundez could be waiting some time for that call.
The reality is that if he were currently eligible for the United States he would almost certainly have been called in already by Jurgen Klinsmann, but with American immigration laws being what they are, Fagundez's best bet will probably be to play for the United States in the 2018 World Cup, assuming his game continues to develop and he keeps building on the incredible promise he has already shown.
That is the next challenge for Fagundez, trying to build on last year's record-setting success, and trying to continue to excel even as opposing teams pay more and more attention to trying to stop him.
"It does change a little bit because I've been in the league four years now and I'm a veteran I guess, but I'm still younger than the rookies," Fagundez said. "It's a little funny. The new guys are definitely coming in doing well and they see what we accomplished last year and that's what we want them to focus on."
Fagundez is very much focused on the Revs, and trying to help his hometown team win a title. You don't hear him talking about overseas moves, or wanting to eventually move to Europe, which is refreshing when so many past young stars always seemed to have one eye on the exit door as they excelled in MLS.
Fagundez isn't thinking about his next destination, or his first national team. He's too busy enjoying his blooming stardom, and his team's recent success, as well as the opportunity to be the best young player in a league he sees thriving. A league he is no hurry to leave.
"You see players coming here now. Why go to Europe when you can stay here?," Fagundez said. "This league's gonna develop year by year it's getting better. Right now I'm happy where I am. I'm happy with this league. I'm having fun with it."