By CARL SETTERLUND
FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Don’t call him a kid anymore.
At least in one sense, 19-year-old star winger Diego Fagundez becomes an adult Thursday, graduating from high school in a 6:00 p.m. ceremony at Fitchburg High School, the city next door to the Fagundez household in Leominster, Mass.
“It means a lot (to graduate),” Fagundez said on Thursday morning. “It means I worked hard all 12 years (of school) and didn’t give up no matter how hard it was. I finished it off and now I’m happy to go walk and get my diploma finally.”
The Revolution say Fagundez, who just turned 19 on Valentine’s Day, is graduating on time. He signed with the franchise as a freshman at age 15.
Fagundez spent his first 1-1/2 years of high school as a traditional student at Leominster High, switched to private tutoring and online lessons as a sophomore, and then enrolled at Goodrich Academy, a night school extension of Fitchburg High, for his junior and senior years.
“It was actually tough because it wasn’t a normal schedule that I had like any other teenager,” he said, “All the teachers, everyone who supported me definitely helped me out, and at the end of the day I’m still walking and getting a diploma.”
Fagundez and Revs brass, such as GM Mike Burns, have stressed since signing him that they felt it was in Fagundez’s best interest to finish high school.
Luckily, he won’t need an expensive college degree to land reliable employment. He’s already on his second professional contract and is set to make a total of $137,200 this season.
Here are some other notes from Revs training:
BATTLE FOR STARTING ROLE BETWEEN ROWE, KOBAYASHI
When Kelyn Rowe returned to the starting lineup last weekend against Montreal, it appeared he had overtaken incumbent Daigo Kobayashi, who started New England’s previous nine games, including a seven-game unbeaten streak (6-0-1) that ended with a 2-0 defeat at the hands of the lowly Impact.
However, Revs coach Jay Heaps supplied a different reason altogether when asked about the move on Thursday.
“Injury,” Heaps told SBI. “Daigo didn’t train all week, he had an injury to his back. He was questionable and we want to play the healthiest guys.”
Kobayashi was back out at Revs training this week, and it’s unclear who will start in Sunday’s game against the New York Red Bulls.
ROWE HUMBLED, MOTIVATED BY INJURY STRUGGLES
Rowe, for his part, has been upbeat despite a long six-week rehab from a left hamstring strain that caused him to miss most of the unbeaten streak.
“You want to get back in the lineup, but the team’s doing so well, you had to be happy for them,” Rowe said. “The guys in there were doing so well, I wasn’t going to be given a spot, that was pretty sure. It’s going to make me a better player having to compete with Lee Nguyen, Daigo, guys like Diego.”
Rowe came off the bench the previous three matches, playing a combined 78 substitute minutes, before going 62 minutes against Montreal. With injuries limiting Rowe to 319 minutes this season, he has yet to score or assist on a goal.
Heaps let Rowe off the hook for last weekend, saying he didn’t think the team’s defensive play against Montreal allowed Rowe to properly utilize his skill set.
MULTIPLE HOME UNBEATEN STREAKS ON THE LINE
A stinker in Montreal brought to a close New England’s five-game winning streak and seven-game unbeaten streak, but two other relevant streaks survived going into Sunday’s 5 p.m. game against the New York Red Bulls.
New England is one of two teams still unbeaten at home this season – Real Salt Lake is the other – and has only allowed one goal in five games at Gillette Stadium, including wins over D.C., Seattle, Kansas City, and Houston.
The Revs have also been especially focused at home against the Red Bulls.
New England hasn’t lost at home to the New York franchise since the team was still called the MetroStars.
The Revs are 11-0-6 against New York in regular season matches in Foxboro dating back to Sept. 21, 2002. That unbeaten streak goes up to 21 games if you also include playoff games and U.S. Open Cup matches.
The news isn’t all good, though. The Revs have only beaten the Red Bulls once in eight games since the start of the 2011 season, a 2-0 win on July 8, 2012.
ANOTHER KIND OF HOME FIELD ADVANTAGE
A New England Revolution spokesperson told MLSSoccer.com on Wednesday that Sunday’s game would be played on the team’s usual FieldTurf, instead of the grass laid down for Friday’s Portugal-Mexico friendly at Gillette Stadium.
In the past, Thierry Henry in particular has refused to play on the Revolution’s surface. The field was named the worst in the league, receiving 12 of 18 votes in a player poll conducted by Sports Illustrated’s Grant Wahl prior to the 2013 season.
New England upgraded to new FieldTurf this season, using the same model as Seattle and Portland.
What do you think? Happy for Fagundez on his high school graduation day? Who should start between Rowe and Kobayashi? Can the Revs get the win against New York? Was the FieldTurf move fair game?
Share your thoughts below.