Always Looking Up
Posted by: Matt Gaschk
Things have not fallen O'Brian White's way since earning the 2007 Hermann Trophy. He's about to change that in Seattle.
O’Brian White lives his life with no regrets.
That may sound like hyperbole, but for White it holds a lot of meaning.
Even when a knee injury cost him half of his senior season at the University of Connecticut and slowed his progress toward his professional career, he didn’t feel sorry for himself.
When things went sour in his hometown of Toronto while playing for Toronto FC, he didn’t make a spectacle of himself or become a malcontent.
Instead he just lowered his head and powered through to the next challenge.
“I’m the type of person who doesn’t worry about things I can’t control,” White said. “I never had second thoughts or regrets about coming back for my senior season - even after the injury. I was just motivated to get back on the field.”
Now he finds himself with the Sounders FC, fighting for playing time at forward on a team that already features the club’s top scorer in Fredy Montero, an established goal-scorer in Blaise Nkufo, an MLS veteran with proven scoring ability in Nate Jaqua and an up-and-comer who has shows a knack for finding the net in Mike Fucito.
But that doesn’t deter White. All the 25-year-old Jamaican has done in training camp is run one of the fastest times on the team in a 30-yard dash and be one of the most goal-dangerous players on the team through the first two weeks of camp.
Things weren’t always so rosy for White though. A product of the Jamaican sun, he struggled with a move to Toronto at age 17. However, he grew to love Toronto and when things didn’t work out with his hometown Toronto FC, he still kept a positive outlook, despite the disappointment.
“It was nice to play there with my family, but I knew that I needed a different environment to excel in,” he said.
Sounders head coach Sigi Schmid had been following White’s career since he started to tear through the NCAA on his way to the 2007 Hermann Trophy. He was surprised when White returned for his senior season, but maintained interest in him even after he was taken by Toronto with the fourth overall pick in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft.
Seattle pursued a trade with Toronto FC for White last season, but weren’t able to work out agreeable compensation. When he was available in the expansion draft, the Sounders approached Vancouver about picking White with the intent of trading them to Seattle. When he was available with the 12th overall pick, Vancouver checked to make sure Seattle was still interested and then made the pick, trading him to Seattle shortly thereafter.
“We were looking for another forward with size and speed that could stretch the defense and we felt that O’Brian White could do those things,” Schmid said.
Now training with Seattle in Casa Grande for training camp, White has paired well with both Montero and Fucito and could easily work with Nkufo and Jaqua, when the latter returns from off-season hip surgery.
His uncommon combination of size (6-foot-1 and 175 pounds) and speed give him the versatility to play with just about any type of strike partner.
“Speed and altitude you cannot coach. When a guy has a good innate understanding of the game, you can’t coach that either,” Schmid said. “With the ACL injury and then the year in Toronto, those ended up being two lost years for him. Last year I thought he had some moments that he did well. I still think he has a lot of good soccer ahead of him.”
White will continue to show that ability as the Sounders train in Casa Grande, Arizona. They will face the Vancouver Whitecaps in a training game on Friday before matches with Real Salt Lake, the Columbus Crew and Chivas USA next week in Arizona.