It was with a huge helping of sadness that I read the news about Seattle Sounders striker O’Brian White on Thursday, as I have seen up close what a superbly talented soccer player he is.
With a reoccurring blood clot in his left leg forcing the Seattle Sounders to buy out his contract — the Sounders will still have first refusal if he should make a recovery — White will be forced to sit on the 2012 season just when he could have shone most.
The towering forward is full of brute force and I have seen him in full flight, and running at me with the ball, during his college days at the University of Connecticut.
During the 2007 season, my freshman year as a soccer player at the University of Pittsburgh, White terrorized defenses at will, scoring 27 goals and adding 7 assists in 24 games. He was awarded the Hermann trophy for the Nation’s top college soccer player. It was well deserved.
He was quite simply one of the most powerful and dominating strikers I have played against. As a defensive unit on a cold night in Storrs, Conn., we tried to shut him down. White scored a hat trick and we lost 4-0 to the No.1 ranked Huskies. He was untouchable and to potentially lose his talent from the league for good would be a huge shame not just for White, but for MLS as a whole.
I can remember lining up at center back as a 19-year-old straight out of England in front of more than 5,000 screaming UConn fans and wondering what weaknesses he had. It was apparent very quickly that he didn’t have any. White had it all. He bullied our defense all night long with his brute strength, he made clever runs wide and in the channels, his first touch was impeccable and when he got half a chance, he buried it.
A year later, he tore ligaments in his knee. It took him three years to get back to where he was, and had just come into his own with the Sounders when the blood clots hit.
I’m certainly hoping he makes a full recovery and gets to show what he can do on the big stage, because I know exactly what he is capable of. It'll be a shame if fans in the US and Canada don't get that chance, too.