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Happy for change of scenery, Sounders’ White makes quick impression


Photo by Nick Turchiaro/


CASA GRANDE, Ariz. — O'Brian White was asked point-blank if the team that made him the fourth overall SuperDraft pick in 2009, Toronto FC, misused him.

A downward glance and shrug of the shoulders said a lot, even if the new Seattle Sounders striker's words didn't.

"It's more than one situation in Toronto," White said after a recent Sounders practice. "I just think it was probably time for a change for both of us. It wasn't like we ended on any bad terms. I thank TFC for everything they did for me."

It just didn't work out for both parties. White scored four goals over his two seasons, and TFC left him unprotected in the expansion draft last November. The Vancouver Whitecaps selected White and hours later traded him to Seattle. 

It's early in the preseason, but White is making Seattle general manager Adrian Hanauer's decision-making look good with his play in practices.

White has a fast and powerful shot and is not only a big forward (6-foot-1 and a muscular frame), but he can fly. There's a reason, or three or four, why Toronto was originally high on the former Hermann Trophy winner out of UConn. 

White can give the Sounders a new dimension at striker. Seattle has target forwards in Blaise N'kufo and the injured Nate Jaqua, but they aren't known for speed. They have quickness, tenacity and big-play capability in Fredy Montero and Mike Fucito, if he plays up top. But those players have a harder time shedding physical center backs. And now there is White, who combines size and speed on the attack.

"We were really pleased," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said of the trade for White. "We thought we got a really good value for our money."

Seattle got White from the Whitecaps in exchange for an undisclosed amount of allocation money.

It took a long time for White to rebuild his form from torn knee ligaments suffered in college that cut into his rookie MLS season. When he did, he was dealing with high turnover in Toronto — his hometown team — among players and especially head coaches. 

"Very difficult. Always a lot of change," White said. "It was a bit of a struggle to get used to the kind of systems. They kept changing their rotation and… had different front players all the time."

White is a natural forward but said he's OK with playing in the midfield if asked to do so. Moving him might be hard for the Sounders coaches, as White has scored several goals already in practices and scrimmages and the team is only a few days into its time in Arizona.

"I'm relaxed right now in terms of this is where I am, so I just focus on that, and there's nothing else I'm focused on right now except training and just getting better," he said.


  1. If he plays well, he’ll get plenty of minutes. It looks like Jaqua is going to be recovering from injury for the start of the season. So, he’ll get Open Cup and reserve league starts early in the year. He’ll also get minutes off the bench and the occasional start in MLS to spell Nkufo.

  2. Good on him for making an impression somewehere else.

    I know someone above mentioned that we didn’t get a full glimpse of his potential under Preki, but I don’t think he would fit into Winter’s system either, 4-3-3 just doesn’t lend itself well to a target man based attack.

  3. White, with the ball at his feet, is not all that fast. He is a strange one, once he gets going he seems quick it just takes him a while to get going.

    I think he is a serviceable MLS player but I will be amazed if he is anything more than a sub.

    Best of luck to him though.

  4. Sigi has yet to figure out that artificial turf needs speed. IF he can fly put him in there and see what he can do.

    Nkufo and Jaqua are not the answer.

    For those that think the turf doesn’t go with his past injuries, I have a bad knee and love turf. So I don’t think it is the same for everyone.

  5. It’s too bad we couldn’t have kept White around here in Toronto, not sure we had a good glimpse of his abilities under the brutal Mo Johnston & Preki regimes. He’s really got no fancy footwork though. If you send him up against 1 defender or a breakaway he’s fine but really, he’s just a target man which Seattle already has.

  6. I could see him getting a good number of minutes as a second half sub. He and Jaqua will be fighting for that role. and with Jaqua starting preseason injured again he might be the first guy off the bench in the opener.

  7. You can’t have a break out season if you don’t break in to the starting line up.

    Unless we have a major injury crisis I can’t see him getting significant minutes in MLS.

    That said, maybe Sigi will reward his efforts and play him in Open Cup/Champions league.

    Glad to have him in the squad, hopefully he will continue to put pressure on the starters.

  8. what’s his age got to do with it? if the guy fits a system, he looks like a much better player, don’t you agree? in what I saw of him at TFC, he wasn’t a fit, frankly I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a TFC player than really was much of a fit with any other part of that roster over the years of their existence, it’s hard to find much success there. If O’Brien White does have a breakout year, will you give him credit for it I wonder?

  9. The guy got plenty of chances but he simply never produced. He has an extremely slow first step and has no idea of how to play within the team. Good finisher if he actually mistakenly gets a look at net.

    Having a bit of a giggle about this “break out” season we are going to see. Barrett as well. Chad’s been “breaking out next year” since 2007.

  10. White’s a good kid, very likable. He didn’t work out in Toronto so we shipped him, I’m not too heartbroken by losing him, and I’m sure he feels the same way. Best of luck to him.

  11. From the few times I saw White in red, he seemed to have a lot of potential. Big, strong, and seemed to have a good enough soccer brain and skill set to dish a few assists on top of his couple goals. Never understood why he didn’t get more of a chance at TFC. Hopefully he can be an impact player after the change of scenery.

  12. I’m just basing this off what’s been going on in Sounders camp. He was 2nd or 3rd in speed trials which included 10, 20, and 30 yard sprints, and he’s just been banging in goals during practice. We’ve got alot of guys that Sigi could be raving about but he’s saved most of it for White.

  13. given his age, it’s unlikely he’ll have a breakout season. He’s not a kid.
    I also find it amusing the article talks about his speed. He only has speed once he gets going. But the big problem in Toronto was that his starts are awful. Don’t expect him to do anything quickly or chase down a ball. He can also be a very clumsy, gangly kind of player.

    The only way he’ll be successful is if Seattle can get passes onto his foot in the 6 yard box.


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