This time, Michael Fucito took the shot.
Long before the second-year player became an instant sensation in Seattle with the first stoppage-time goal in club history, Fucito was just another kid battling a handful of other players for one of the final Sounders FC roster spots.
Given a chance to make a case for himself in a preseason game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Fucito had an opportunity to break a deadlock with an open shot on goal. With the ball teed up on his favored left foot and the Vancouver goal at his mercy, the second-year player passed the ball off to the left. Seattle lost the ball and the game ended in a scoreless draw.
After the match, coach Sigi Schmid and nearly every Sounders player stopped Fucito and told him to shoot the ball the next time he’s open. Simply put, his teammates said, strikers have to be willing to embrace the big moment.
When Fucito found himself in the same position Saturday against the Kansas City Wizards, Fucito took those words to heart. The first to run on to a quickly taken throw-in from Brad Evans, the late substitute lashed a first-time finish into the back of the net.
Seattle 1, Kansas City 0.
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“That’s the best feeling in the world, scoring a goal,” Fucito said after the match. “It was at such an opportune time. I want to thank the coaches for putting me in and giving me a shot and my teammates for their support, too.”
Fucito’s goal, which came as a surprise to many, didn’t surprise his teammates. The left-footed player has been scoring prolifically in Sounders reserve matches. In the short time he’s been on the field, he’s created havoc with what Schmid called his “bulldog mentality.”
“Mike Fucito works hard in training and he battles,” the Sounders coach said. “He was alert and made a good run behind the defense. He hit it and didn’t take extra touches, which we sometimes do in the box.”
If it weren’t for Kasey Keller, however, Fucito’s euphoria would have turned to heartbreak. Fucito, who was lined up at left midfield, let his mark fly directly through towards Seattle’s goal after the kickoff. Luckily, Keller was there to cover for him, poking Chance Myers’ sizzling shot just past the far post.
Furious at the defensive lapse, Keller leapt to his feet and gave the rookie a tongue-lashing.
“We almost fell asleep there for a second,” Schmid said. “I think Mike was in a state of euphoria still and didn’t get back on the left side on defense. I think he’ll be in that state for the next 72 hours.”
With his goal on Saturday, perhaps Fucito will start to see more meaningful minutes, especially when the Sounders are in search of a late goal.
“He has a never-say-die attitude,” Schmid said of Fucito. “Sometimes that’s what you need on the field. Sometimes you can die with beauty and sometimes you can succeed with simplicity.”