TAMPA, Fla. — In the midst of a stellar season as the resurgent Philadelphia Union’s leading scorer, winger Fafa Picault has earned his first call-up to the U.S. national team in more than two years.
Picault made his senior international debut in a friendly against Puerto Rico in May of 2016, but it’s been a long wait for that second call.
In the time since, Picault left the German second division in favor of a chance in MLS with Philly. The 27-year-old winger scored seven goals for the Union last year, and has built upon that with 10 goals and five assists in 27 MLS appearances this season to help his team surpass 50 points for the first time in club history.
He scored twice and added an assist in the Union’s 5-1 win over Minnesota United FC on Saturday before joining up with the national team as an injury replacement for Christian Pulisic.
GOAL: Fabrice-Jean Picault curls in a fantastic goal for the Union
“It’s been a good season with Philadelphia,” Picault said Wednesday morning. “Last year I had a good season and I’ve just been trying to build off of that with more confidence and more freedom. Now getting the chance to do that at the international level, I want to show what I can do here as well.”
Born in New York City to Haitian-born parents, Picault could have represented Haiti at the international level, but played for U.S. youth national teams growing up and says he felt an allegiance to the United States.
That commitment never wavered, even as he waited more than two years for a second chance with the senior national team.
“I’ve always been one to say, ‘Just do your job and good things will come,’ he said. “Some people have to wait longer than others. I was part of the U-20 national team and I’ve always felt my allegiance was here.
“I was born and raised here. My parents were born in Haiti but raised in the United States. My father served in the Marines. I felt an allegiance to the United States and I was willing to wait however long it took. It’s come again, but it took two years, so I just want to make the most of the opportunity to show what I can do.”
Picault on his first USMNT callup in 2016 | Ft. Lauderdale Strikers
USMNT head coach Dave Sarachan credited Picault’s consistency this year as the reason he’s in camp right now.
“He’s had a good season with Philadelphia and that’s one of the reasons we brought him in,” Sarachan said. “He offers some things that we haven’t seen lately in our group in terms of pure speed and having a dynamic presence. Now that we’ve been in it for a couple days and he’s been settling in, I think he feels comfortable. It’s not his first time in, but it’s his first time in quite some time. He just gives you good pace and speed is something you can never have enough of. I’m curious now to see him in this environment and, so far, he’s not out of place at all.”
Picault is an electric presence on the wings, with an impressive motor and speed to burn despite his small stature.
“For people that maybe haven’t watched me play a lot, I bring speed, dribbling and being dangerous in the final third,” he said. “I like space. I like getting behind defenders and I like scoring goals and creating for other guys. It’s my job to work hard offensively and also help out in the defensive half when I can.”
If Picault performs well with the national team, he should return to the Union with a fresh boost of confidence for the final few weeks of the regular season and the playoffs beyond. Philadelphia currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, with an Audi 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs berth already secured.