Peter Hattrup is perhaps the most entertaining player ever to come out of the Northwest, and certainly unique. From free play he dared to take on his man and then another, find a teammate with a simple yet devastating pass when everyone else expected otherwise and deftly place his shot rather than simply thump it. Hattrup starred for championship teams at Seattle Pacific, the Sounders and, indoors, with Kansas City and Milwaukee. After being voted A-League MVP in 1995, he was signed by MLS for the inaugural season at Tampa Bay, but a preseason knee injury forced him to miss that season and all but seven games of the next, in Dallas. Altogether, he played 16 seasons professionally. He now serves as technical director for Lake Washington Youth Soccer and guides three Crossfire Premier teams, and still torments defenders in the over-30 and –40 leagues.
As a fan, what’s the ideal game to watch?
It’s got to competitive, hard-fought. It’s got to be free-flowing. Both teams must want to play. The hardest game to watch is when one team sets out to stop the other team from playing. Both teams must try to go forward. It’s a dangerous game to play and that’s why most coaches won’t do it. You see it too rarely. Arsenal and United, Madrid and Barcelona; they try to do it and are dedicated to attack. There’s something to be said that some of those clubs fire coaches for winning but not playing an entertaining style. The game is more than competition, it’s entertainment as well. It’s supposed to be a spectacle. People want to see somebody do something out of the ordinary, teams that will take chances, and not worry about making mistakes. Those are the most enjoyable to watch.
Who are your favorite players, past and present?
For all-time, Johan Cruyff. Now, if he comes back to play for, say, New York, Zinedine Zidane. Barcelona’s Lionel Messi is special. They’re entertainers as well as players, and they’re fun to watch. Zidane’s a little different from the others who take guys on and beat them. For Zidane, his vision and technique seemed miles ahead of other players. It was a telling thing when went Beckham went to Madrid and he said as good as those players were, Zidane was way better than everybody.
You scored lots of goals at SPU and with the Sounders.
Beyond the stats, you played with style. What inspired you to play that
I always wanted to play with flair. The game is supposed to be fun. I tried to be creative, inventive and do something that would be a surprise to not only the defense, but anybody who was watching. I wanted to do something they didn’t expect to see.
When you were playing, as an individual what gave you the most satisfaction?
It changed as I got older. When I was younger, the most enjoyable thing was to score goals and if you scored with style, then all the better. As I got older, the team scoring was paramount, but the quick combinations, or something a little bit special, a little bit of flair, those were always highlights for me. It may not have resulted in a goal or even a shot, but some decent invention from somebody always made the game fun for me.
Your nickname, at least a few years back, was Al (as in almanac). What kind of facts interest you most?
Trivial information, I guess. Since I never had a real job, I had a lot of space up there to accumulate knowledge or information that other people don’t have space or time to store. Good for cocktail parties, but there are times when I’m actually embarrassed to know it.
You’re an avid reader. So what are your favorites?
As a kid I went through Louis L’Amour books like they were going out of style. Now if I find an author I like, I follow them. But the problem is that they take a year to write a book and I read one a week. So I go all over the place. I like historical novels and biographies and entertaining fiction as well. I try to balance it out. I just picked the Earl Emerson book, The Smoke Room. And an interesting one was the Lucifer Principle, written by a scientist to explain behavior of men and why we have wars, why the Roman Empire fell and why United States is in trouble. The things he questioned were interesting.
You’ve played for a lot of teams, but 2-3 must have distinguished themselves more than others?
When I came back and played for the Sounders, with a lot of guys I’d known for years and we won, that was obviously one of the highlights. To play in your hometown with your friends as a professional athlete doesn’t happen often. One of the best group of guys to be around was that first year in Tampa, and I didn’t even get to play. When I went and finished in Milwaukee indoors, that was a great team. We won as well, but that team was real close on and off the field and it was a lot of fun.
You’ve played for a lot of coaches and now your are coaching young people. What truism do you pass along to them?
Your mind should be the fastest thing on the field. I don’t care how fast you can run or how good you think you are. It’s the most overlooked, undervalued quality of a player in a free-flowing sport. If you can’t think fast, you can’t play fast.
You were one of the first players from this area to sign with MLS. What were those first days like?
The first few days were great, right up until I got hurt. I got picked up at the airport at the same time as Carlos Valderamma, so my first moments as a Tampa Bay Mutiny player, I’m meeting and talking to one of the world stars of the time. Right off the bat, they made an effort to do things big time, and having been through lean years, it made a big impression on all of us. Even training camp was a great time. We were all excited to be part of something big. For years, this is what we had worked and hoped for. That part of it was great.
What’s changed since then?
Back then, the range of players was too big. You had your Valderamma, Allain Sutter and Marco Etcheverry, and then guys on the squad that just weren’t good enough. The overall level has gone up, and the reason is that they pay more. They can go out and not only get star players, but multiple star players. They’re finding better players. Valderamma was good but some of the guys were just names. The MetroStars kept buying Brazilian after Brazilian and they were all failures. Now there are very few foreigner stars who fail. The league is bigger, better and more respected, and now they can get players who want to play here, not just come finish their careers.