Photo by Nick Turchiaro/ISIphotos.com
By JOSE M. ROMERO
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.