Seattle Sounders forward Mike Fucito grew up in the Boston area around one of the greatest rivalries in American sport - Red Sox v Yankees. That gives him some perspective on the 30+ year history that we have here in Cascadia as he is about to play in his 3rd preseason against these teams. Our conversation Thursday started talking about that relationship.
Dave Clark: When you see a rivalry for soccer in the Northwest how does that compare to your personal experiences in the Northeast
Mike Fucito: The first thing that comes to mind for me is the Red Sox - Yankees. New York and Boston are about 3, 3.5 hours away and that's kind of similar with us and Portland, us and Vancouver. Also how the fans embrace it. I think there's a respect there, but there is also a strong dislike for the other and the fans sure like to show it. Big rivalries are like that. Its great it just adds to the drama of the game itself. It is cool to see.
DC: Does it feel odd having a preseason match-up with both of the rivals?
Fucito: I kind of like the idea. I guess we're going to be doing this thing every year. We played both these teams last year pre-season. Obviously the games don't matter from the points standpoint, but it's going to be a nice preview and great way to start the season.
DC: With this pre-season you've been paired with probably every other guy that can play forward, while last year was a lot of Nate Jaqua and some Roger Levesque. This year, with Nate recovering from injury, you haven't settled on a particular pairing. Nkufo offers that huge body and experience, with O'Brian White you have two speed guys pressuring defenses, you've paired with Lamar. How does that change how you prepare during preseason?
Fucito: From last year was a lot of games with Nate and we started to establish a good relationship. We started to understand each other's strengths and how to playoff each other. I think we were very successful at that. I'm excited for him to come back. That being said it's different playing with each person - a Fredy, a Blaise or O'Brian. Each person brings their own skills and unique aspects to the game.
You learn a lot playing with each of those players. Its good to get comfortable with everyone, because at any time you could be in any combination with them out on the field. I feel sorry for the other teams with who ever is out there. Lately I've been paired with O'Brian, and this weekend hopefully you'll see that. He's a big guy with a lot of speed, but he's very good at holding up the ball. We've demonstrated in the short time that we've compliment each other well. We're developing a good relationship. I think all those relationships are good, but it takes time to get comfortable so you know the other person's habits when you play together.
DC: You have some similar experiences with recovering from injury with O'Brian White, do you think he's at a place where you are seeing that type of player at UConn that had him go so high in the MLS Draft?
Fucito: Absolutely. He had a major knee thing. That's something that people might not come back from at all. He's able to do that. I think it's one thing to come back from it, but it takes a little bit of time to your old form and feel truly 100%. This year he's starting to feel that way. He's demonstrated a lot of things that justify his hype from college and show why he was so successful and why he'll be successful going forward.
DC: There seems to be a First Team and a Second Team right now with Montero and Nkufo both being Designated Players and heir apparents to the starting time, does that give guys like yourself, a Tetteh, a White extra motivation for US Open Cup or Champions League?
Fucito: Yes and no. If you look at it, that's probably where the opportunities are going to come, but I think that any time a guy like me gets the opportunity, we'll take it. We're players that want to play. I don't think one particular thing takes precedent over the other, but if that's where the opportunity is going to come you take it, whether starting there, or coming on late in league play...
DC: [interrupting] Say six minutes versus Kansas City?
Fucito: Yeah. [chuckles] At the end of the day it is about this team winning. Each person has their own role in that. If it's coming on 15 minutes a game, starting a game here and there, whatever. You make the most of it, you try to do your best. Opportunities will come for every player. It may not be now, but it's important to be ready, because unfortunately injuries and stuff like that do happen. That's why rosters aren't 15 players. I guess know its 28 to 30 players. There's going to be opportunities for everyone. Part of why we're going to be successful is that we do have a lot of depth. That's going to pay a lot of dividends as we go further into the season.
DC: You were protected, you ended training camp with a lot of the same guys. Does that change your approach knowing that protection by the club with the core of players being very similar to last year?
Fucito: I don't think it changed much. For me, it just motivated me. For this season I wanted to build off what I was able to do last year. So I didn't go home for the off-season, except for around Thanksgiving for a week and a half, but then I was here working with our trainer, Dave Tenney, throughout the winter. I wanted to come in as best prepared as I could for the season. I wanted to avoid those little injuries that I have picked up in the past.
I knew that we are going to have tons of games; we're going to need everyone. I want to be successful and help this team win. A mistake some guys make is being satisfied with where they are at. Yeah, I was protected, but with that comes the kind of responsibility in order to justify the decision to be protected. I know I am one of those guys that wasn't necessarily a sure thing. I'm sure a lot of people questioned their decision. I'd like to use that as motivation to try to prove that I belong here and I can help this team.
DC: You stayed here for the majority of the off-season which leads me to one final question. You've kind of settled into Seattle a bit, now in your third season with the club. Talk about the city and how you decided to stay this off-season?
Fucito: I've definitely settled in here. I like it here. I'm becoming more and more comfortable here everyday. I think a lot of that has to do with the situation that we have here in Seattle. The fans and the organization make it so easy to like it here. I miss Boston obviously, but this is becoming my home. I'm happy to say that. I like it out here. I think the fans are unbelievable, it has helped so much with being so far from home. With them kind of embracing me a little bit I'd like to make sure they keep coming back and we hopefully keep winning games making it exciting for them. They are definitely important to us.
Fucito and the Sounders take the pitch against the Portland Timbers tonight at 7:30PM. Sunday they face the Vancouver Whitecaps and on Wednesday they finish up pre-season with the Community Shield against the Colorado Rapids, current holders of the MLS Cup.