While the MLS SuperDraft is rapidly becoming a small piece of the roster building puzzle from teams in an always evolving league, the San Jose Earthquakes were pleased to add three players via the draft that are expected to complement an already loaded team. Veteran forward Mike Fucito, acquired in a draft day trade with Portland, and college seniors Tommy Muller and Dan Delgado are the newest Quakes after their rights were secured on Thursday.
“I think we covered everything in this draft,” said head coach Frank Yallop on the team’s three player haul. “We got a good defender, a good midfielder, and a good forward in the trade.”
Draft selections Muller and Delgado, as seniors finishing up successful collegiate careers, will not have much in way of expectations put on them in their rookie seasons; however, Fucito, as a player with MLS experience, will need to prove he can contribute to the team from day one. Fortunately for the Harvard University product, he knows a good situation when he sees one, and welcomed the trade to San Jose.
“I was really happy about it,” said Fucito prior to his second day at Earthquakes preseason training. “I sort of knew I was going to be on the move. I would say this was definitely on my short list of places to end up. I’m really excited about it.”
Fucito, who had a tumultuous 2012 campaign that saw him start the year in Seattle, get traded to Montreal for forward Eddie Johnson, and finally shuttled to Portland, will look to reestablish his career in San Jose. Out of contract after serving out his initial four-year MLS deal, but rumored to be close to finalizing a deal with the Earthquakes, Fucito has a chance to make a difference in the team’s forward rotation.
“Picking up Mike really adds to our squad,” said Yallop. “He’s the type of player I know I’m going to like: hard working, honest. When he gets his chances he’s going to score. I’m excited to get him. Yes, he went through Montreal and he went through Portland, so hopefully we can get him back on track, if you like, and get him settled. I think he is going to do okay for us.”
The diminutive forward, who endured what he described as a season that was “probably not one that is going to be a highlight of my career,” is prepared for the challenge ahead in making the San Jose roster, and he looks at his trade to the Earthquakes as a chance at redemption for a lost year in his career.
“I’m definitely looking to build off the momentum I created the previous year in Seattle,” said Fucito, “and try to forget about how this past year went. Just like Frank (Yallop) said, put myself back on the map and show that I can score goals and hopefully help this team win in any way I can.”
Fucito will add to a forward corps that already includes reigning MLS MVP Chris Wondolowski as well as the new Bay Area “Bash Brothers” Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart. Add in promising second year player Cesar Diaz Pizarro and comeback minded rookie Marcus Tracy, and Fucito will certainly have competition to earn minutes this season. However, with the Earthquakes playing on three fronts this season — the MLS regular season, the 100th edition of the U.S. Open Cup, and the group stage of the 2013/14 CONCACAF Champions League — Fucito will certainly have his opportunities.
“Absolutely,” said Yallop, “and I want Mike competing for a first team spot in MLS. We did not just bring him in to play in the CCL and Open Cup. Yes, he adds depth, but he’ll have a chance to prove he can start. May the best man win. If he’s in doing great and scoring goals at any level of competition then I will look at him.”
Meanwhile, Fucito recognizes the role he can play for the Quakes, especially given his previous success in the CCL — he scored 5 goals in 8 appearances for Seattle — and welcomes the chance to teach his new teammates about the continental championship.
“The Champions League,” said Fucito, “I’ve had a lot of success in that in the past, so for me it’s more opportunities to play, so I’m really looking forward to it… I think that is definitely where I can help add some expertise.”
Currently out of contract, Fucito will have the preseason to prove to Yallop and general manager John Doyle that he is worthy of a spot on the senior roster. However, the coach feels that Fucito will have no difficulties fitting in with the team, a contract agreement could be reached sooner than later. After all, in Seattle, Fucito was a fan favorite for his “never-say-die” attitude on the field — a quality that both his potential Quakes teammates and club supporters know very well.
“He’s just the type of player that I like,” said Yallop, “and I think that he is going to do well with us. I know the team is going to embrace his hard work and his endeavor and all those things that they value.”
Fucito knows he can mesh well with what San Jose has developed, especially given the reputation the Quakes locker room environment has throughout the league — “something that is a model for other places,” he added — for embracing players willing to work hard for their teammates. In giving a self-assessment of his own qualities, the forward already sounds like a prototype Earthquake.
“They can expect me to bring my energy and speed,” said Fucito. “I’m going to work hard and battle, and I think that plays into the mentality this team already brings. I think it is a really good fit for me and for my style of play.”
Does the team have another addition to the “Goonies” in their midst? Fucito seems just the type of player to fit in from the start in San Jose.