August 15, 2011
Precocious pros; Lack-of-height advantage(?); Reyna on 'players first'

By Mike Woitalla (from Soccer America's Youth Soccer Insider)

A player who still needs a ride to practice from his parents scored his first Major League Soccer goal earlier this month. ...

Diego Fagundez, who turned at 16 last Valentine’s Day, made his MLS debut as a 66th minute sub and scored 20 minutes later against Chivas USA.

Born in Uruguay, Fagundez moved to the USA at age 5. His youth clubs included FC United and FC Greater Boston Bolts before joining the New England Revolution's Academy team. Last year, at age 15, the Revs' made him the youngest player signed by MLS since Freddy Adu in 2004 at age 14.

Fagundez, who is entering his sophomore year at Leominster High School, does have his learner’s permit but has been too busy focusing on his new career to take driver’s ed classes. In Scott Barboza’s ESPN.com article, "Revs' teen phenom soaking it in," Fagundez says, "I let my parents drive in the morning so I can sleep an extra hour on the way in. On the way back, I'll drive."

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... Real Salt Lake’s 17-year-old midfielder Luis Gil, who played youth ball for Southern California’s Pateadores before joining the U.S.  U-17 Residency in Bradenton, also scored his first goal in August. (Check out video of Gil and Fagundez's goals HERE.) Texan Omar Salgado, picked No. 1 in the 2011 draft by Vancouver, made the list with a strike in April. Here’s MLS youngest goalscorers:

1. Freddy Adu
D.C. United
2. Diego Fagundez 16
New England
3. Santino Quaranta
D.C. United 2003
4. Eddie Gaven
New York
5. Jozy Altidore
New York
6. Abdus Ibrahim
Toronto FC
7. Andy Najar
D.C. United
8. Eddie Johnson
Dallas 2001
9. Omar Salgado
10. Luis Gil
Real Salt Lake

... Revolution vice president Mike Burns told ESPN.com: "You look at teenage phenoms and some of them have hit their peaks at 15, 17 years old, then at 25, you never hear of them again. Some guys develop earlier and others develop later. Some guys that might not be as advanced at 17 might become a fantastic player by the time they're 25. You never know.

"We hope we have [Fagundez] on the right track so that he's not one of those kids you don't hear about 10 years from now."

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… Both Gil and Fagundez are listed as 5-foot-8. Jonathan Wilson of the The Guardian (UK) brought up the size issue in his piece on Spain’s “Dynasty,” which be believes will rule for at least the next decade thanks to the success and technical expertise of Spain's youth teams. They won this year’s U-19 and U-21 European Championship, and Spain played brilliantly at the U-20 World Cup before falling to Brazil on penalty kicks after a 2-2 tie in the quarterfinals.

Writes Wilson: “The Spanish game in general, is more prepared to give smaller players their chance. Seven of Spain's starting XI against Brazil were under 6-foot. It is a simplistic theory, but perhaps, particularly at youth level, smaller players have to think more than their larger opponents, and so they develop football intelligence earlier. (England, I note with a shudder, had the tallest squad at the Under-20 World Cup).”

England exited after going four games without scoring.

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... Goal.com’s J.R. Eskilson, in his piece headlined, “The environment hinders growth in U.S. youth soccer,” spoke with Claudio Reyna, the U.S. Soccer Federation’s Youth Technical Director. Reyna’s comments included, “The kids should not be in stressful environments at this age. …

“As it is now, it is way too focused with parents and coaches dominating. The game is always about the players first. It should be about them, and not about the parents, coaches, and adults who nine times out of 10 screw it for the kids in our country. ...

“We have kids who are hungry and committed, so the focus is to remove [the stress and politics of youth club soccer] from the players."

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... QUITE A RUN.  CASL Chelsea's Eric Steber has been a part of all U.S. Soccer Development Academy Finals since the program’s first season in 2007-08, twice at the U-15/16 level and twice at U-17/18. “Eric has been a leader by example for many years. He is a very quiet person by nature, but all of his teammates feed off of his energy and desire to be successful,” said Rusty Scarborough, CASL’s Director of Coaching, and coach of this year's 5th-place U-17/18 squad. A right back who likes to attack, Steber is entering his freshman year at Furman.

(Mike Woitalla, the executive editor of Soccer America, coaches youth soccer for East Bay United in Oakland, Calif. His youth soccer articles are archived at YouthSoccerFun.com.)