It’s been a topsy-turvy year for Mike Fucito.
He entered the 2010 season with a full head of steam after a start-and-stop 2009 season that saw him take part in training camp, then return to Harvard to finish his psychology degree before committing himself to soccer on a fulltime basis. When he arrived in Seattle midway through the season and signed a developmental contract, it was tough for him to break into the lineup.
Instead he spent the season playing mostly in reserve games, where he lit up the scoreboard, scoring in nearly every reserve match he played in while attacking from the left side.
He followed that up with an intense offseason workout program to regain the form that saw him score 32 goals to go with 24 assists in four seasons at Harvard. It appeared early on that the work had paid off. After a strong training camp, he figured strong into Sigi Schmid’s plans for 2010. He came on as a sub in the season-opening victory over the Philadelphia Union.
His next match would likely be the oddest he’s ever played in.
Coming on as a sub in the 85th minute of a 0-0 deadlock between the Sounders and the Kansas City Wizards at Qwest Field, Fucito was an instant burst of energy. He slid in on a tackle quickly during his time on the pitch and felt something rip in his knee.
However, he stayed on the field and made the biggest impact he could possibly make. Brad Evans tossed a throw-in up the right side to Fucito, who snuck behind the defense undetected before blasting a shot past Jimmy Nielsen to give the Sounders a 1-0 win with his stoppage time heroics.
That was the last time he played this season.
After the match, his knee began to swell up. The medical staff, he said, thought compression and a week off would fix the problem, but fluid built up in his knee and shortly thereafter he had it drained. The fluid returned, so he had it drained again … and again … and again. After he didn’t recover after the 12th time the knee was drained, he opted for surgery, requiring 100 stitches inside his knee to repair the damage.
“It was kind of a freak injury that ended up being more serious than they thought,” Fucito said.
But finally, he could begin the road to recovery.
That road brought him back to the field two weeks ago after a frustrating four-month stretch.
“I would say frustrating would be an understatement. Just not knowing exactly what it was or a timetable. It was sort of an experimental thing where we tried to avoid the surgery, but nothing seemed to take,” Fucito said. “I feel good now, so it ended up working.”
Fucito was “filled with pure joy” when he was back on the field at training, beaming after every practice session.
The next steps will be calculated ones, as Fucito works his way back into fitness. As the bulk of games over the season’s final two months grows, Fucito’s presence in the lineup increases in importance.
“We’re still trying to build Mikey’s fitness. He’s a very explosive guy and he’s done very well in that, but it takes a little while for him to build his aerobic fitness. So we have to be careful with him, but certainly his energy and his ability to be quick and sharp are important,” Schmid said. “We’re going to need him in this stretch of games. He’s going to play a role for us.”
He was rewarded for his efforts when Schmid put him back in the 18-man lineup last Thursday in Seattle’s 2-1 loss to CD Marathon in the CONCACAF Champions League.
“Last week was great. Obviously coming off of IR was kind of a big step,” Fucito said. “It’s been a while. It’s good to be back practicing and feeling whole again.”