Mike Fucito: Seattle Sounders' Embodiment of Desire and Spirit
Mike Fucito fell in love with soccer at first opportunity. His desire and spirit represent an embodiment of accomplishment through continued effort.
Fucito hails from Westford, Massachusetts, located some 35 miles from Boston. While living most of his life in Westford, he left the public school system to attend the Brooks School in North Andover. Head Coach Dusty Richard and assistant John Packard had the tools to develop a championship club as Fucito formed a tandem with Charlie Davies, who would ultimately star in international professional ranks with French Ligue 1 team Sochaux and be capped 16 times for the U.S. National Team.
As seniors the duo of Fucito and Davies, who also played together in club action, rewrote the record books. Fucito captained a squad that won the New England Championship and was the only undefeated and untied team in league history.
In order to achieve one requires an opportunity, and Fucito was fortunate in attracting the interest of one of soccer’s top coaches in John Kerr. Former U.S. National Team member Kerr coached Fucito at FC Greater Boston Bolts. Fucito’s performance with Kerr’s club prompted a recommendation that dramatically enhanced the player’s visibility and opportunity in the soccer world.
Kerr was then head coach at Harvard. He was sufficiently impressed to recommend Fucito to the Harvard admissions staff. The rest is history, as Fucito sparkled in Ivy League competition.
Fucito more than repaid Kerr for his confidence in his ability, beginning with his freshman season of 2004 as he was named Ivy League Rookie of the Year while being named to the All-Ivy League second team. In Fucito’s 2006 campaign, in which he played left wing, he ranked among the nation’s leaders with nine goals and as many assists, securing first team All-Ivy League honors. He was also named to the All-Northeast Region first team.
He was named to the NSCAA All-American second team in 2007 and 2008, both at forward. Fucito would be selected to the All-Ivy League and All-Northeast Region first teams in 2007 and 2008 as well.
Fucito helped lead the Crimson to the NCAA Tournament three consecutive years. In 2007 and 2008, he was named Academic All-Ivy League. He was also named to the ESPN Academic All-District team in 2007.
The prolific scorer kept Ivy League statisticians on alert. Fucito completed his Harvard career ranked fourth among all-time scorers. He chalked up 32 career goals and 24 assists despite playing injured his final two seasons and undergoing hip surgery in the off-season.
Fucito served as Harvard’s captain his senior campaign. He was a finalist for the Lowe’s Senior Class Award.
Mike also was the recipient of the William P. Bingham Award conferred by the Harvard Varsity Club and given to a deserving senior athlete. Fucito received the honor for 2009 along with footballer Chris Pizzotti.
With such an excellent career achieved at a prestigious as well as high visibility university as Harvard, it was only natural that Fucito would draw attention from the Major League Soccer community. One team that took a close look was located far west from Harvard in Seattle, where the Sounders carefully scrutinized him.
Chris Henderson, a former MLS star, serves as Sounders Technical Director. One of his responsibilities is heading the team’s scouting operation. He joined the Sounders community in 2008, one year before the team would begin competing in MLS play. Henderson recalls the period leading up to the MLS Superdraft of January 15, 2009.
“It was our first draft and we wanted to make sure we made the right choices,” Henderson said. “We were interested in Mike Fucito and I knew his coach, John Kerr, from playing with him on the U.S. National Team. When I told him about our interest in drafting Mike, John was very emphatic. ’It’s worth it to take a chance on Mike and you won’t be sorry if you do,’ John told me. John praised Mike’s attitude as well as his abilities as a player.”
Seattle selected the Harvard All-American in the fourth round of the draft. Eventually an opportunity would surface to help the club during a key moment in the first half of the 2010 campaign. Fucito reminisced about it when interviewed following a workout at the Sounders’ Starfire training facility in Tukwila.
After asking the stocky 24-year-old about his love for soccer and when he believed that it might be possible for him to play the game professionally, his response was quick and direct.
“Going into college my goal was to develop my talents,” Fucito said, “but the time when I began to really think that a professional career was possible was when I was named to the All-American team. I thought about playing professional soccer before but at that point the goal became a lot more reasonable to me.”
As earlier noted, Fucito was awarded for academic as well as athletic achievement. His major was psychology. This led to the question of whether he is able to put knowledge gained in that area to use in his soccer career. Fucito clearly enjoyed the question and had a ready answer.
“Yes, definitely,” he responded. “Psychology is about learning to interact. That’s what soccer is all about. It’s a team sport and to play it successfully you have to know how to interact with your teammates. It takes chemistry. I have it when I work with Nate Jaqua.”
While Fucito is stocky and Jaqua tall and rangy, the two players have one important asset in common. Each has a hustling, non-stop playing style.
The interview entered a déjà vu moment for Fucito when he was asked about a moment of achievement that stood out in his career. He selected the one that came after a patient wait, when the 5-9, 165 pound Fucito got the call from Coach Sigi Schmid to take the pitch at a key moment of the team’s April 17 match against the Kansas City Wizards, ironically the team for which Sounders chief scout Henderson starred in his playing days.
The capacity throng of 35,924 at the Xbox Pitch of Qwest Field was stirring restlessly, fearing that victory was eluding the Sounders as the teams battled at 0-0, marching well into overtime. Would the tide change?
Mike Fucito has always been an explosive player with quick striking capability. That ability served him well just as the clock was about to expire. In the 92nd minute Brad Evans took a throw-in 25 yards out on the right sideline, finding Fucito racing into an open area on the right side of the box.
Fucito looked toward the far post. This drew Wizards goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen one step to his right. Fucito blasted the ball past Nielsen’s left hand. It landed in the net for a 1-0 lead as pandemonium reined.
The afternoon’s thrills had not expired with the Fucito goal, however, as Kansas City barely beat the clock to launch a final surge. It was repelled as Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller made a diving save to prevent a tying Kansas City goal.
“We thought that the match had ended,” Keller explained.
As for Mike Fucito, a journey that started on the Massachusetts youth soccer fields, extended to Harvard All-American status, and continued to MLS play in the Pacific Northwest with the Seattle Sounders had seen him score his first goal. Fucito made history, becoming the sixth player and first since 2005 to score his first career goal as a game winner in stoppage time.
“That’s the best feeling in the world, scoring a goal,” Fucito said at the time. “I’m glad that it was at such an opportune time.”
It pays to be a student of the game. Fucito’s effort furnished him with an opportunity to score his winning goal against Kansas City.
“I remember from film that on throw-ins Sigi always wants someone to stretch,” Fucito said after the win. “I saw that Brad had the ball and I ran through trying to stretch them. He made a great throw right in my path and I was one-on-one with the goalie. I hit it and I finished it well.”
The euphoria from that experience was on Fucito’s mind during the interview as well when he was asked to describe his biggest career moment. At the same time, the Kansas City encounter displayed both the ecstasy as well as the agony of soccer.
“That first goal will always stand out,” Fucito said. “You feel like all that hard work was worth it.”
As euphoric as the feeling was from scoring the first goal of his MLS career and enabling the Sounders to achieve a storybook win as time was about to expire, there was the agony as well, the hard luck moment.
“My knee got caught in the turf,” Fucito explained. “I had to have it drained. It took over 100 stitches to sew it up.”
From that point it was on to rehabilitation. When Fucito returned it was with steely resolve. The competition that emerged was some of the most challenging for any player to face, particularly someone returning following an injury period. Fucito was given a start in Champions League action September 22 against rugged Mexican power Monterrey on its home pitch.
The Fucito speed and quick strike capability surfaced early. The attacking strategy employed by Fucito and Jaqua paid off in the 27th minute. Fucito drove a shot that defelected off of Hiram Ricardo Mier and past Jonathan Orozco for an own goal to give the Sounders a 1-0 lead.
Fucito kept up the aggressive pace and in the 45th minute he tallied to give Seattle a 2-0 lead. Alvaro Fernandez and Jaqua connected on a ball. Jaqua then found Fucito on a run up the right side. Fucito moved into the box, then blasted a right-footed shot past Orozco for the 2-0 lead going into halftime.
The Sounders were unable to maintain their lead and Monterrey enjoyed a productive second half spurt to win 3-2, but the visitors made a great impact while Fucito’s appetite was whetted for some more challenging CONCACAF action.
He got his next opportunity before the Qwest Field faithful one week later September 29. The result was Seattle’s lone win in Champions League competition with a 2-0 triumph over CD Marathon of Honduras. Fucito scored both goals. he first came in the 21st minute after tracking down a bouncing ball, then streaking past his defender and drilling the ball into the net.
The second and last tally of the night came in the 68th minute. Marathon was called for a foul just outside the box. Fucito lined up over the free kick alongside the right-footed Mike Seamon. Fucito cleverly bent the ball around the wall for another one of his patented bullets. It found the back of the net.
Once more Fucito revealed that he was paying careful attention to Coach Sigi Schmid.
“The free kick just comes from Sigi,” Fucito said. “The other day in practice he had me trying some things in a similar situation where I was bending it over the wall and into the near post. After working on that for a little bit it translated to the game.”
Chris Henderson commented on Fucito’s successful return to action as well as his attention to detail.
“Mike Fucito is a good example of someone who has worked hard for his opportunity and then is able to deliver when he gets the chance,“ Henderson said. “We also like his attitude, the way that he listens to what his coaches tell him, just as John Kerr mentioned when we expressed an interest in drafting Mike.”
Fucito impressed in speed and agility tests in pre-season workouts. In Massachusetts before pre-season activity began Fucito worked with Boston trainer Mike Perry. Operating from a standing start with no starting block available, he ran a 4.41 40. Given the aforementioned, he would appear to be capable of a 4.38 or 4.39.
One experienced veteran of soccer who has evaluated Fucito with interest is Alan Hinton, a former English Premier League star and Sounders coach.
“There were two Sounders players who, from the time I first saw them on the field, I knew had the tools to make the grade,” Hinton recalled. “One was Patrick Ianni and the other was Mike Fucito. Mike has all the necessary ingredients, he can do everything. First of all, he’s as strong as a bull. He’s also got great speed. He also has great feet and can kick well with either foot.”
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