Mike Fucito needed plenty of patience and trust to reach the dramatic height of scoring his first MLS goal on a game-winner in stoppage time of the Sounders FC’s 1-0 win over the Kansas City Wizards Saturday afternoon at Qwest Field.
After an injury-riddled senior season at Harvard, the Sounders FC drafted Fucito in the fourth round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. After the draft, he returned to Harvard to finish his degree before rejoining the Sounders FC last July. He made appearances in friendly matches against Chelsea and Barcelona, but other than that was used exclusively in reserve games. In those games, he starred, scoring seemingly at will against the likes of local college and PDL teams.
After the 2009 season, the Sounders FC waived Fucito and he had to prove himself again in training camp this year. He scored twice in late preseason games after being held out with injuries for a portion of camp and eventually re-signed just before the MLS season began. He made his pro debut in the season opener against the Philadelphia Union, logging 14 minutes in a 2-0 victory. He then returned to his work with the reserve squad before getting back on the field again on Saturday and making the most of his five minutes by scoring the game’s only goal.
“Fucito is a guy who has worked really hard for a year. I was really happy when he came on (against Philadelphia),” said midfielder Freddie Ljungberg, who singled out praise for Fucito on his blog. “I’m extremely happy for him. I told him to feel the happiness now because he worked hard for this and he deserves it.”
Echoed head coach Sigi Schmid, “He has a ‘never say die’ attitude. Sometimes that’s what you need on the field. Sometimes you can die with beauty and sometimes you can succeed with simplicity."
On the goal, Fucito bolted up the field as Brad Evans took a throw-in from the right side. He got behind the Wizards defense, looked off goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen and blasted the ball inside the near post for the goal.
“He’s a meaty guy and he’s quick. It’s tough to keep ahold of him,” quipped Evans. “He checked away and his defender looked. By the time he looked back the ball was already in play and he was gone. It’s a split-second thing that changes the game. Hats off to him for a great run and an awesome finish.”
The 35,924 in attendance came to a crescendo of cheers for the 24-year-old from Westford, Mass., after the goal – a far cry for Fucito from the handful of friends and family that watch most Sounders FC reserve games.
“It’s completely different. The games matter now and for it to be a winning goal means that much more. I’m just glad I can contribute,” he said. “That’s the best feeling in the world, scoring a goal. I’m glad that it was at such an opportune time. I want to thank the coaches for putting me in and giving me a shot and my teammates for their support too.”
His teammates offered support in bunches after the game. Along with being mobbed on the sideline after the goal, his teammates continued to toss praise his way after the game. Not only did he power the Sounders to a victory, but he did so after a diligent year that earned him his playing time the hard way.
“It shows that with hard work and the right attitude you can be rewarded,” goalkeeper Kasey Keller said. “Mike’s been tremendous from the first day of preseason and he came in with the attitude that he’s going to fight for everything. He showed that from the first second that he got on the field. I’m just so happy that he got the reward at the end and got the goal. It’s a big day for him. Let’s hope now he keeps pushing on.”
His next opportunity may come as soon as Thursday, as the Sounders FC take the road for a nationally televised match on ESPN2 against FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park in Frisco, Texas, before another road match against Toronto FC on Sunday.