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Originally published Wednesday, January 26, 2011 at 8:10 PM

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Could Mike Fucito be offensive spark for Sounders FC?

Mike Fucito's production when healthy is hard to ignore, but staying injury-free has been a challenge. In two seasons with Seattle, he has played just 47 minutes in league games.

Seattle Times staff reporter

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TUKWILA — Go ahead, doubt Mike Fucito.

At 5 foot 9, he is somewhat familiar with being overlooked.

The third-year Sounders FC forward/midfielder dropped to the last round of the 2009 MLS SuperDraft. He has struggled with injuries dating back to his college days at Harvard. In two seasons with Seattle he has played just 47 minutes in league games.

So please, feel free to provide him some extra motivation.

"I like being the underdog, I'm kind of used to it," Fucito said. "I like proving people wrong."

No better was that demonstrated than by earning valuable protection during November's expansion draft. With Portland and Vancouver joining MLS, Sounders FC made Fucito one of 11 players unavailable for selection by the new franchises.

Not a bad leap for someone waived 12 months earlier.

"I think we made a good decision holding onto him, and I think he's going to do well," said coach Sigi Schmid of the gamble.

Entering Year 3, Fucito could be a spark Sounders FC needs to reach elite status in MLS. Featuring an uncanny nose for the goal, the 24-year-old can provide instant offense to a team that is known for suffering a goal drought or two.

That expectation also brings along added pressure.

"But Sigi always talks about how pressure is a good thing," said Fucito. "Guys who can perform under pressure, those are winners, and that's what I want to be. It gives me more motivation to prove that it was a good decision (to protect me) and that I can be a force to be reckoned with."

Fucito's production when healthy is hard to ignore, but staying injury-free has seemed as tough as an Ivy League entrance exam.

A hamstring injury limited much of Fucito's senior year with the Crimson — though he still was named to the NSCAA All-America second team, capping a decorated college career. Last season the native of Concord, Mass., suffered a troublesome knee injury at home against Kansas City, a game he dramatically won with a goal in extra time. He came back and performed well later in 2010, finishing with four goals in all competitions.

To get back to 100 percent this year Fucito had to disregard the notion of an offseason. Over the past few months he's been working with fitness coach Dave Tenney to ensure he'd be ready to go in training camp.

Last week, Fucito was the star in pre-camp training with the team's rookies and other invitees.

"You could see he was a cut above in that group," Schmid said.

The trick is maintaining that performance at the highest level.

"When he was training with the young guys he was a little more selfish," Schmid said. "Now that he's out with the old guys he's a little less selfish, and I actually told him he's got to be more selfish around goal."

The only reservations Fucito has to deal with now, it seems, are his own.

Notes

• Along with drafts and international signings, Sounders FC also acquired a couple players via trade this offseason: defender Danny Earls and forward O'Brian White. The early returns are good.

Earls, a left-footed Irishman formerly of the Colorado Rapids, is "right there in the mix" for a roster spot according to Schmid. White, acquired in an expansion draft-day swap with the Vancouver Whitecaps, could also be a pleasant surprise.

"He's a big body. He's got good size, good speed," said Schmid of the 25-year-old Jamaican. "I think this club is going to have a lot of joy with O'Brian White before the day is over."

• Sounders FC will dedicate Thursday and Friday to fitness work before leaving Sunday for Casa Grande, Ariz., for the second leg of training camp.

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com

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