PORTLAND, Ore. – Eddie Johnson goes out, retiring after a series of concussions. Mike Fucito arrives to take his place.
According to Portland Timbers general manager Gavin Wilkinson, Friday’s for Fucito was as simple as that. It’s not about the team’s current struggles, just purely out of need for depth at the forward position.
With Johnson’s retirement foreseen by the front office for several weeks, Wilkinson said the move maintains Portland’s experience and depth up top.
“We came to the realization a while ago that we lost Eddie for the season,” Wilkinson told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “When you start looking around and understand what you need, the honest truth was we needed another forward with MLS experience who has played in front of big crowds in electric environments who basically could cope with the huge expectations. Fucito is a player who has played in front of those crowds.”
Fucito spent his first three MLS seasons with the Seattle Sounders before being traded to Montreal in the preseason. He logged his most meaningful time in CONCACAF Champions League matches – tallying five goals in eight career CCL appearances. He also had 19 appearances in regular-season play in 2011, as well as a handful of starts in Seattle’s US Open Cup campaign.
“We just needed another quality forward who has the ability to start games and also has the traits to be effective coming off the bench,” Wilkinson said. “Let’s not get away from the fact that he’s scored some big goals and scored them in difficult environments in CONCACAF games.
“We find out sometimes what looks like a great move for a player, who has been a very, very good player in other markets,” Wilkinson continued. “There are different expectations in Portland, different levels of pressure, and players perform differently in different environments.”
With Fucito, there’s less concern about that aspect of it – he’s already been part of the Cascadia Cup, albeit in the wrong shade of green.
The former Sounders fan favorite becomes the first player in the Seattle-Portland rivalry to change sides in its MLS-era. Even so, Wilkinson said there was no intention to tweak Seattle.
But he said Fucito is more than ready to show where his loyalties lie now.
“He knows what the expectations are, he knows what the environment is, and not one mention was there any concern about him being disliked by fans because of the rivalry,” Wilkinson said. “It was more, ‘I’ll show you that I’m worth it.’ When he scores his first goal or makes his first great play, the Portland Timbers fans will know he’s going to sweat for us.”
Dan Itel covers the Timbers for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.