For three years Michael Fucito has been buried deep in the Seattle Sounders depth charts behind numerous star strikers, seeing very limited time on the field. In the Third Round Tuesday night he made his US Open Cup debut and scored both Sounders goals in a 2-1 victory, feeling the limelight many of his teammates have experienced the past two years.
Fucito earned the honor in a two-person race with Matthew Delicate, who led the Richmond Kickers to the lone upset in the Third Round. The Player of the Round award is voted on by the staff of the definitive US Open Cup site TheCup.us and a selected panel of members of the North American Soccer Reporters, which also selects the MLS Player of the Week.
Photo: Seattle Sounders
The Harvard graduate has had to show an enormous amount of patience in his young career, waiting for rare opportunities to step into the lineup. Those chances have typically come in situations with the club looking to rest its starters. His first year in 2009 was wiped out by the conclusion of his academic collegiate responsibilities along with injury, resulting in no appearances. In 2010, he made only four appearances during the season and tallied just one goal.
His first big break, though, came under unfortunate circumstances as the club enlisted its reserves for the CONCACAF Champions League last fall after losing its first two group contests. Fucito came off the bench in the third match, a 2-0 loss in Costa Rica, and went on to start the next three with positive results. He forced an own goal and tallied one of his own in his first pro start as they lost 3-2 in Mexico to eventual CCL champion Monterrey and went on to tally two in a 2-0 victory at home against Marathon, the club’s lone win in the group.
His success led to a postseason appearance, though under trying circumstances again coming off the bench in the second leg as the team trailed by three goals versus the LA Galaxy.
After only playing 483 minutes in nine appearances (six starts) so far this season, Fucito finally may be ahead of the curve, starting in the club’s first game of a quest to three-peat.
Facing the local Kitsap Pumas who ventured across the Puget Sound via ferry, the Sounders found a new Open Cup hero courtesy of its previous one. Continual pressure from the top flight club finally found a result in the 39th minute when Nate Jaqua, who scored five goals in the three previous Open Cup games at Starfire Sports Stadium the past two years, knocked the ball down for Fucito.
Rushing into the box, Fucito left his feet to send the volley from the left corner of the area inside the right post for the opening marker.
Fucito would double the advantage in the 62nd minute by dancing through the Kitsap defense and around the goalkeeper, 2011 Sounders draft pick Bryan Meredith, before finding the back of the net. He started the play with the ball in the upper left corner of the box again, beating a defender and then Meredith, who had come well out on the play, in the center of the 18 before letting loose what proved to be the game-winner. The player of the game would leave the contest six minutes later in favor of defender Jeff Parke.
Fucito’s honor marks the sixth time in the past three tournaments in which a Sounder has been recognized as TheCup.us Player of the Round. Only three other players have managed to knock Seattle from the spotlight in their nine rounds of play thus far. Jaqua was honored in the Quarterfinals and Semifinals with two-goal performances with Sanna Nyassi taking the honor with two strikes in the Final. In 2009 it was Sebastien Le Toux in the Semifinals and Fredy Montero in the Championship.