The way he plays on the field, it would be easy to forget Diego Fagúndez is one of the youngest players in Major League Soccer, but as one of the league’s highest profile Homegrown Players, the Uruguayan-born attacker’s age is never far from fan’s minds. Having scored 21 goals in his first 69 career matches, Fagúndez makes it easy to tout the fact he’s only 19 years old.
One of the rights of passage that comes with that age happens to Fagúndez next week. On June 5 in Fitchburg, Mass., the Revolution star will receive his high school diploma from Goodrich Academy, graduating in four years despite spending the bulk of that time beginning his career in professional soccer.
Fagúndez was signed by New England in Nov. 2010 while a freshman in high school and made his full Revolution debut the following April in U.S. Open Cup. During the ensuing years he went from part-time status (314, 770 MLS minutes played his first two seasons) to a full-time player, registering 2427 minutes for Jay Heaps over 31 appearances last season.
Of course, his raw time on the field isn’t what sets Fagúndez apart, though the minutes alone are impressive for a player who’s also finishing high school. Last year, Fagúndez scored 14 goals. After recovering from a slow start, his early 2014 returns give him a chance to challenge those totals. Through 12 games, Fagúndez has four goals and three assists.
But consider the implications of those last couple of sentences – how easy it is to move on from Fagúndez’s age and talk about him as if he’s not going to be walking down an aisle next Thursday in a cap and gown. We discuss Fagúndez like we’d discuss some of the 21 and 22-year-olds that are in the draft each year, but he isn’t even close to that age, yet. In MLS terms, this kid’s just a pup.
On Thursday, that pup takes another step forward, earning an honor which reminds us how far he still has to go.
Diego Costa says he and his Chelsea teammates are to blame for Chelsea’s horrid start to the 2015-16 Premier League season.
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Speaking Thursday, during a bit of downtime over the current international break (Costa was left out of Vicente del Bosque’s squad for Spain’s final two EURO 2016 qualifiers this week), Costa placed the majority of blame at the feet of the entire team, but went on to most harshly critique himself for coming into the season unfocused and “overweight.”
Costa, on his lack of fitness and form to begin the season — quotes from the Guardian:
“We know we’re not in the form we were supposed to be at the beginning of the season. We need to blame the players because we came back from holiday very confident, thinking we could go back into how it was last season, and then realized the team was already in a bad situation.
“I’m going to be very honest: maybe a few weeks ago, five or six weeks ago, I was not on top of my game. At least physically. We talk within the players and we know that, maybe at the beginning, we were not 100 percent as we were supposed to be when we got here. I got injured at the end of last season and then I went on holiday. Maybe I got out of my diet and, when I came back, I was not the way I was supposed to be. I was a little bit overweight. That affected my game. You can be selfish and blame it on the manager but I’m not going to do that. I’m responsible 100%, and so are the other guys.
Given that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho said on Thursday he doesn’t quite know what’s wrong with the defending Premier League champions, hearing someone — anyone — speak up and explain the club’s worst start to a season in 37 years will surely be a welcome sound to any Blues supporter’s ears.
[ MORE: Liverpool appoint Klopp as manager | Allardyce to Sunderland? ]
Costa, who is eligible to return from suspension next weekend when Aston Villa visit Stamford Bridge, has scored just one goal in league play this season (six appearances) after scoring 20 in 26 games last season.
Now that Liverpool have selected and named their new manager, it appears Sunderland are finally ready to move forward with their own managerial search. (That’s clearly a joke, because it implies Liverpool and Sunderland ever duke it out for the same managerial candidate.)
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Anyway, the Black Cats will have to hire someone to replace the recently-departed Dick Advocaat at some point. We all knew that, despite the fact he’s probably earned a shot at that level, Bob Bradley was never really going to be considered for the job. With that in mind, if you’re not going to endear yourself to the entire United States of America with this hire, you might as well go for the best unemployed manager who’ll actually consider your approach.
That’s what Sunderland chairman Ellis Short appears to have done, as it was reported Thursday that despite an initial reluctance from Sam Allardyce — let’s be honest, he actually was holding out hope for the Liverpool job — the 60-year-old most recently in charge of West Ham United was willing and ready to enter into negotiations with the northeastern club.
One of the major sticking points during Sunderland’s courting of Allardyce is expected to be his demand for autonomy in the transfer market as well as a sizable transfer budget to sign his own players during the January window.
[ MORE: Advocaat: Sunderland squad too thin, chairman to blame ]
Allardyce seems like the no. 1 guy you’d like to bring in to steady a capsized ship — cough Sunderland cough — in any situation. Not only does he have a successful track record in the Premier League, but he’s the kind of no-nonsense leader a club like Sunderland so desperately needs as they find themselves in yet another relegation battle just eight games into the new season.
Short hopes to have Allardyce signed, sealed and delivered when the Premier League returns to action next weekend. In that event, Allardyce’s first game in charge of Sunderland would be a trip to West Bromwich Albion. His first home fixture? Home to Tyne-Wear derby rivals Newcastle United, a club whose boisterous fanbase still holds a great deal of disdain for Big Sam. Sometimes the football gods really are looking out for us.