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Fan-favorite Diego Fagundez earns Austin FC's Offensive Player of the Year
Diego Fagundez threw up the "LV" in honor of Austin FC fan club Los Verdes after he scored the club's first-ever goal. (Austin FC/Twitter)

When Diego Fagundez signed onto the new Austin FC program, the 26-year-old midfielder was eager for a fresh start, and it paid off—on Wednesday, Fagundez was given the team's first Offensive Player of the Year award.

Already a decade into his MLS career, Fagundez became a surprise standout in Austin, tying for the most goals on the team and becoming a fan favorite after scoring the club's first goal back in April.

Fagundez has made headlines before—at 15, he joined the New England Revolution before he could even drive to practice and later became the youngest player to reach 200 appearances in the league.

In his first professional appearance, Fagundez made himself known just 20 minutes in as he scored his first goal. And in similar fashion, Fagundez made a mark early on in the Austin FC program as he scored the team's first-ever goal just two matches into the inaugural season.

"In my head that day, I said to myself, make sure you do something that people will recognize your name," Fagundez said. "I come to a new team, and I want to do the same thing. I want people to know who I am and what I what I'm capable of."

A man of the fans, Fagundez threw up the "LV" to recognize supporters' group Los Verdes, an insignia he would later get shaved onto his head.

Although Austin's first season results were anticlimactic for some—the team finished 12th out of 13 teams in the Western Conference and 24th overall—Fagundez and his signature bleach-blond hair shone as a bright spot. An unexpected team leader, Fagundez cemented a starting spot on the team and became known for his relentless hustle as he tallied seven goals and five assists (also tied with a team-best) in his 33 club appearances.

In the second to last match of the season, Fagundez again made history as he became the second-youngest MLS player to earn 50 career goals and assists.

Fans have been unanimously supportive of Fagundez's postseason awards.

"Dude was all over the field every game," fan Sara Niño-Carachure said. "I really enjoyed watching him play."

Austin is home for Fagundez—he's had Los Verdes members babysit his two young kids, watched them learn about "The World's Game" from within Q2 Stadium walls and is eager to spend more seasons in Verde.

"This whole family of Los Verdes and all the awesome Austin fans is just amazing," Fagundez told Austonia. "It's like one big, happy family."

And Fagundez isn't the only one getting recognized with post-season awards—on Monday, keeper Brad Stuver, a surprise star himself, was named a finalist for the MLS WORKS Humanitarian of the Year awards. Stuver, his wife Ashley and one fan's quest for a Verde keeper kit this spring led to a huge influx of donations for The Laundry Project, a charity that helps provide free laundry services to those in need.

The Stuvers and other Austin FC-affiliated families will head to Quik Wash, 9414 Parkfield Drive, on Saturday to provide free laundry services, detergent and fabric softener to low-income families.

And Head Coach Josh Wolff is a finalist for the 2022 National Hall of Fame after a storied career. In addition to a season with the Bundesliga's 1860 Munich and two FIFA World Cup appearances with the U.S. mens' national team, Wolff scored 109 goals in the MLS, winning an MLS Cup, three Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cups and earning two MLS All-Star awards in 14 seasons. Wolff was also a protege of USMNT Head Coach Gregg Berhalter and spent five years as assistant coach at Columbus Crew SC.

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