The tales of O’Brian White’s Hermann Trophy winning season in 2007 have since reached Bunyan-esque status.
He was a man amongst boys in his junior season when he scored a school-record 23 goals at the University of Connecticut.
However, it was a disappointing sophomore season that laid the groundwork for that incredible season.
“We had a very good team, but we couldn’t score and we kept giving up easy goals. We really felt embarrassed for that and we all came back stronger,” White said.
White spent the whole summer between his sophomore and junior seasons in Storrs, Connecticut, to work out and stay close to his team. To say that it paid off would be a dramatic understatement.
After two difficult seasons with Toronto FC, it looks like history may repeat itself as White gets his first season with the Sounders FC under way on Tuesday when Seattle hosts the LA Galaxy in MLS First Kick at Qwest Field.
White was in Jamaica on the day of the Expansion Draft when he got a phone call from Sigi Schmid telling him that the Vancouver Whitecaps selected him, then traded him to Seattle.
His excitement bubbled over and he made the move to Seattle early to get acclimated to the area and the team.
“Things didn’t work out as I hoped in Toronto and it was time for a change,” he said. “Now I’m very happy to be here and I’m looking forward to the season.”
In Seattle, White joins a deep and versatile group that includes designated players Fredy Montero and Blaise Nkufo, US Open Cup Player of the Year Nate Jaqua and rising talent Mike Fucito, along with the likes of Lamar Neagle and David Estrada.
The amassed talent encourages White, though.
“It is a deep group, but that just motivates me to work harder and make the decision harder for the coach,” he said. “And definitely when you play with good players you play better. I enjoy going out there and playing with these guys.”
Meet the Forwards
Fredy Montero: The 23-year-old Colombian has had two phenomenal years in MLS, scoring 12 goals and 7 assists in his first season in 2009 to earn Newcomer of the Year honors and adding 10 goals and 10 assists in 2010. Under a new, long-term contract, he is primed to keep improving on those numbers.
Blaise Nkufo: In 11 matches in 2010, the Swiss striker scored 5 goals, including the club’s first ever hat-trick against the Columbus Crew. Seattle went 9-1-1 in MLS play with Nkufo in the starting lineup. The 35-year-old World Cup veteran joined the Sounders at mid-season in 2010.
Nate Jaqua: The 29-year-old MLS veteran played his most limited role in 2010 after missing the first half of the season with a lower abdominal injury. He didn’t score an MLS goal, but did manage five goals on the way to US Open Cup Player of the Year honors. He has 40 goals and 27 assists in his MLS career. He is currently recovering from off-season hip surgery and should be able to participate in full training within couple of weeks.
O’Brian White: After two seasons with Toronto FC, White came to the Sounders in a trade with the Vancouver Whitecaps after the new club selected him in the Expansion Draft. He had 4 goals and 4 assists with Toronto after being selected fourth overall in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft.
Mike Fucito: The third-year forward from Harvard was limited last season by a knee injury, but made a dramatic impact on the games he played in. From his dramatic stoppage-time winner over the Kansas City Wizards to his performance on the road against Monterrey where he scored one goal and forced an own-goal with another shot, he showed that he can make an impression on the game regardless of how much time he spends on the field.
Lamar Neagle: The Federal Way native played with the Sounders FC in 2009, but did not make the final roster in 2010 and instead played in the USL-2 with the Charleston Battery, where he scored 12 goals to earn MVP honors. He also spent some time playing in Finland with Mariehamn before rejoining the Sounders for the 2011 season.
David Estrada: A first-round SuperDraft pick out of UCLA in 2010, Estrada has seen time as a forward and midfielder, but had a strong showing as a forward in training camp. He will likely play both roles in 2011 with the Sounders FC.