It had to happen at some point. In fact, it’s happened before. A one-time Sounders player is suddenly found wearing a Timbers uniform. And vice-versa. While the United States is quite large compared to other soccer-playing nations, when it comes to the number of soccer players actively playing here per capita, it’s a pretty small talent pool to select from. So it was only a matter of time when someone would make the jump between the rival Cascadian cities. If you had money on the Timbers announcing the signing of former Sounders forward Mike Fucito on Friday, April 20, 2012 (via Montreal), congratulations, you’re a confirmed liar!
Reactions on my Twitter timeline ran the gamut: angered, excited, but most of all, confused. Don’t the Timbers already have enough forwards? (Obviously, this question was quickly answered by the soon-after announcement of Eddie Johnson’s retirement…the good one, but that’s another blog entry altogether.) Don’t the Timbers need more help on the back end? For a few hours on a Friday afternoon, Portland’s work production rate plummeted as they scratched their heads, completely distracted from the next day’s match against Sporting Kansas City. (Looking back, the distraction wasn’t completely unwelcomed.)
All of the sudden, both Timbers and Sounders fans found themselves dealing with the way-too-sudden reality of players playing on both teams during their MLS careers. This was one of the few times when both sets of fans were on mostly common ground with respect to dealing with such an ordeal.
NOTE: to the outsiders who might be reading this and thinking it’s completely ridiculous to make such a big deal about players moving between Portland and Seattle, I’d like to introduce you to something called sports. Some of them are even on TV, which you probably don’t even have. Go back to your scholarly journals and let us air this one out!
In order to come to grips with this, we should examine the individual player’s career performance, not just for the opposing team in question, but more specifically, their performance against our own team. Since I’m not the type to spend my free time sifting through sports statistics, I requested the help of local Timbers writer / podcaster Mike Donovan. Here’s what he found:
# of minutes played in MLS competitions: 1,071 (not including 129 playoff minutes)
# of goals scored in MLS competitions: 4
# of minutes played in Open Cup competitions: 193
# of goals scored in Open Cup competitions: 2
# of minutes played in CONCACAF competitions: 397
# of goals scored in CONCACAF competitions: 5
# of minutes played against the Timbers (regardless of MLS / USL / Open Cup, etc.): 0
# of goals scored against the Timbers: 0
# of fouls committed against the Timbers: 0
# of jerkwad goal celebrations in front of / toward the TA: 0
According to Donovan, “Fucito has never played against the Timbers in any official match. He did, however, play 73 minutes last year for the Sounder Reserves vs. the Timbers Reserves at Starfire. He also played 10 minutes in last year’s 2-0 Timbers win during the Cascadia Summit. He didn’t score or get a card in either appearance.”
Not bad on the stats, if I do say so myself. Looks to me like nothing but positives for the Timbers that could also help create negatives for the Sounders down the road. Let’s also examine a few other items of note:
Fucito was a fan favorite in Seattle. They were pissed when Montreal acquired Fucito and Lamar Neagle in exchange for Eddie Johnson (the bad one). Both were considered fan favorites before being shipped off. If Seattle fans were pissed then, they were irate on Friday afternoon when news of Fucito wearing a better shade of green hit the newswire. Seattle’s misery is Portland’s joy.
Also, as if the two Timbers-Sounders derby matches taking place at JELD-WEN Field in 2012 needed more heat this year, well…they got it. Can you imagine the scene if Fucito scores against his old team? Think about that for a second. Twitter timelines across Portland could be jammed for seconds…nay, dare I say, MINUTES!!
Fucito also attended Harvard University. We like smart people here in Portland (contrary to my statement above about scholarly journals. Apologies.).
Finally, reports came out over the weekend that Seattle couldn’t reach a deal to get Fucito back from Montreal. The way I understand it, the Timbers got Fucito in exchange for either the Timbers’ highest 2nd round draft pick in 2013, or a 2013 international roster spot, depending on his 2012 performance. Call me crazy, but that looks to me like the Timbers got Fucito on the cheap. Am I to believe that Seattle couldn’t give up at least that much to acquire a fan favorite that would require next to zero time for re-acclimation to the city and the team’s playing style? If I were a Seattle fan (which, according to some people, I am), I would be furious about this part most of all.
This scenario reminds a bit of The Mighty Ducks, where the star player for the evil team of rich kids suddenly found himself playing for the good guys through no fault of his own. Over time, he triumphed over adversity and found his way into hearts of teammates and fans alike.
OK, so it might not be as dramatic as a Disney movie, but I think you see what I’m getting at here. Fucito’s a good player, and is clearly more than able to make solid contributions toward the Timbers’ overall aspirations. I see no valid reason for us to be questioning where his loyalties may lie, especially when his old team didn’t pony up for him. He’s now a Timber, and he should be respected and treated as one. Let’s put on the daddy pants and be a big boy about this, mmm-kay?
Now if Levesque ever becomes a Timber (again), all bets are off. Cuz seriously, screw that guy!
This is an opinion piece and does not necessarily reflect the opinion of the 107ist or the TA.