"Slow feet don't eat," as Fafa Picault likes to say in his suave, confident tone. It's the bravado he sharpened growing up in New York City and Miami.
He's spent his time in the United States as a kid split between those East Coast cities, before departing for Italy to join Cagliari's academy, then returning to feature for the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Fort Lauderdale Strikers and, for the last three seasons, the Philadelphia Union.
But Picault's three-year stint with the club came to an end when FC Dallas acquired the dynamic winger earlier this offseason. And he isn't about to go hungry at his new club.
“If you’re quick, you’re gonna eat more than slow guys," Picault told reporters Wednesday of the slogan. "It’s kind of to poke fun at guys who can’t catch me. At the same time, it’s to represent my work ethic. As we say in slang, everybody’s got to eat. And I’m definitely trying to eat as much as possible.
“It’s all about business this year," he added matter-of-factly.
Picault, who will turn 29 before the start of next season, had 21 goals and 12 assists in 89 appearances for Philly. He's a traditional winger, thriving in 1v1 situations up against defenders who simply can't catch him, as he's quick to chuckle about. He joins a Dallas side burgeoning with young players, led by the likes of Paxton Pomykal, Reggie Cannon and Jesus Ferreira, as well as Luchi Gonzalez, the club's former academy director who enjoyed a successful debut campaign in 2019 as first-team boss.
“I’m definitely looking to come in and implement leadership, but you can learn from young guys," Picault said. "Whenever you’re teaching is learning. My job is not to babysit them, but help nurture the talent they have. It’s not daycare, it’s not kindergarten, I’m not here to babysit them. They’re men.”
He has already spoken with Gonzalez and his staff, saying how excited he is to work with his new coaches. He's already looked at film and has begun offseason work long before he reports for preseason next month.
Picault admits he was surprised to leave Philly, though he suspected a change might be coming as the club changed towards a tight 4-4-2 diamond formation in 2019, leaving the natural winger without an obvious place on the field. He compensated and popped up in the midfield and up top, doing what he could to earn minutes.
“I won’t say I’m surprised, maybe even months ago, I could see it coming to an end," Picault said. "The club were headed in a different direction, but I’m thankful for my time in Philly, I’m especially thankful for Jim Curtin and the staff. But we got a new sporting director and the formation was going in a different direction. I made a lot of sacrifices this year, I suffered a lot stat-wise because of it. Which is fine, if we could have gotten some silverware. I understood that was going to happen. I’m understanding of it, but I knew it was time to move on. This is definitely the right step for myself and for Dallas, I was beyond excited when I knew it was happening.”
As fate would have it, Picault may well get his competitive debut for Dallas against Philly. FCD host the Union on opening weekend in 2020, kicking off their season on Feb. 29 against his former club.
“It’ll be nice to see familiar faces, but I treat every game the same," Picault said. "Once you start to make differences in who you’re playing against, for revenge or whatever the case is, you mess your own self up psychologically. I want to destroy every defense I play.”
Slow feet don't eat, after all.