Blaise Nkufo knows all about the expectations fans in Seattle have for him. He assures, though, that they pale in comparison to his own.
“Of course people will have expectations. My expectation is higher than the fans,” said Nkufo, fresh after watching the Sounders FC in a training session on Tuesday. “I know I will have to work hard to show what I can do, but I know that I start from zero. It won’t be simple, but I’m ready.”
Nkufo joined the Sounders FC at Starfire for training on Tuesday, though he watched the club from the sideline alongside owner/GM Adrian Hanauer and Sr. VP of Business Operations Gary Wright. Fresh off of a championship with FC Twente in the Dutch Leagues, Nkufo is in the midst of something of a whirlwind week off before he leaves later this week for his native Switzerland to begin training for the World Cup.
In the meantime, though, he met with his teammates, who are awaiting his arrival with the squad in July.
“It’s just fantastic,” said goalkeeper Kasey Keller. “We wish him all the success and he comes back fit and ready to go.”
Nkufo said, “My decision was easy to make. I’m proud to be a part of this team.”
Born in Zaire (now the Democratic Republic of Congo), Nkufo moved to Switzerland at a young age and played professionally there until 2001, with the exception of one season with Al-Arabi in Qatar. He then made the move to Germany’s second division with FCV Mainz. After two seasons with Mainz and one with Hannover, he signed with FC Twente in 2003 and became a staple on their scoresheet over the next seven seasons. He has since become the club’s all-time leading scorer with 114 goals.
Nkufo has 27 caps with the Swiss National Team, scoring seven international goals, including five in qualifying for the 2010 World Cup.
“Someone with a proven goalscoring record is going to help us a lot. Until then, we have to manage and we still feel like we can turn it around before then. When he comes hopefully he’s the final piece,” said midfielder Steve Zakuani, who leads the team with three goals through eight matches.
“Obviously he has got a proven goal scoring record,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said. “He’s not the kind of player who is going to run away from people so he scores his goals by instinct and timing and understanding the flow of the game. Those are all of the qualities that he is going to bring to our team.”
In addition to his on-field prowess with the ball, Nkufo has also acted as captain for Twente and the Swiss National Team, so there is also an element of leadership involved in the equation.
“Anytime you add a quality player it’s going to improve obviously the quality of your team – on and off the field,” Schmid said. “Not only does he have abilities on the field but he is really a well-spoken individual who thinks about what he wants to do and team success is very important to him. So he brings that to the party as well.”
Though he has never been to a match at Qwest Field, Nkufo knows what to expect from the Sounders FC supporters.
“I’ve heard that they really support the team. I think that’s really great and if every team can get some fans like that, it’s great,” he said. “You can achieve a lot with the fans and they can be the 12th man. I think you can achieve a lot.”
After the World Cup, Nkufo will rejoin the Sounders in July, at which point he intends to provide those supporters plenty of goals to celebrate.
“As a striker, they can expect a lot of goals,” he said matter-of-factly. “I know what I can do for this team. I’m going to be focused on my skills and what I’ve done in the past and I hope I can do that with the Sounders. It’s a great group and I feel like we can win something with this group.”
Nkufo is slated to join the Sounders FC in time for their July 15 road match against DC United.
This weekend, they travel to Red Bull Arena to face the New York Red Bulls. Kickoff is set for 4:30 pm Pacific Time on KONG TV.