Ever since being drafted in the fourth round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft, Mike Fucito has had something to prove.
After finishing his psychology degree at Harvard University, he joined the Sounders FC midway through the 2009 season and battled for playing time from that day forward.
That effort has paid off and the Seattle forward scored twice in a 2-1 win over the Kitsap Pumas in the Third Round of the Lamar Hunt US Open Cup on Tuesday, earning him the US Open Cup Player of the Round honors.
In that first season, Fucito was limited to a reserve role and didn’t see time in any MLS or US Open Cup matches. In 2010, injuries kept him to just four MLS appearances, though he scored a memorable stoppage-time goal against the Kansas City Wizards to give Seattle a 1-0 win. He also made his mark in the CONCACAF Champions League, scoring three goals late in the group stage. Finally, in 2011, Fucito got his chance to start his first MLS match and while he hadn’t scored yet in 483 minutes, he had been a dynamic menace for the opposition.
Scoring two goals in the Open Cup can only prove to lift that self-belief as he works to get more playing time in MLS matches.
“I’m playing with probably a little more confidence. I feel a little sense of relief now that I’ve banged away the goals. That was the last thing to come,” said Fucito, 25. “Now I’ll just continue finding my niches on the field and putting myself in positions where I can be goal dangerous and get those opportunities.”
Fucito got his first MLS start in a 1-0 loss to FC Dallas on May 25. He went on to start six straight matches and the Sounders went 3-1-2 in the process.
While he is proud of the work he’s done to earn a more prominent role, the speedy forward wasn’t content with just starting.
“Looking back, I feel like I’ve been able to keep a constant progression going over my time here. It’s important to look back and notice that, but not to be satisfied. I’ve got to be hungry for more,” Fucito said. “It was great to start, but I want that to be a regular thing and continue to score goals and help the team.”
Earning Player of the Round honors in the Open Cup is a good start. Fucito becomes the fifth Sounders FC player to earn the recognition, joining Sebastien Le Toux and Fredy Montero in 2009 and Nate Jaqua (twice) and Sanna Nyassi in 2010. In addition, the last two US Open Cup MVP awards have been given to players on the Sounders FC - Kasey Keller in 2009 and Jaqua in 2010. Add to that the same award that was won by Chris Eylander in the 2008 tournament and two straight semi-final appearances by the USL Sounders and the region has come to expect great things out of the annual tournament.
The win over Kitsap puts Seattle on a the start of the path toward their pursuit of a third straight Open Cup title.
“It reminds me of last year,” Fucito said. “The Open Cup is huge. We want to defend our title.”
The Sounders will face the LA Galaxy in the Fourth Round of the Open Cup on July 12 or 13 at Starfire.