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Fabrice Picault looking to prove worth in first USMNT camp

Fabrice Picault USMNT 75

MIAMI SHORES, Fla. — Fabrice Picault met with members of the media for the first time as a member of the U.S. Men’s National Team earlier this week and in a few short words gave a fitting description to his recent rise in the world of soccer.

Started from the bottom.

Picault was one of the most unknown and surprising names included on the roster that U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann put together for a preparation camp in South Florida in the build-up to next month’s Copa America Centenario. Picault, whose nickname is Fafa, was called in after impressing during the second half of the 2. Bundesliga season with St Pauli, which he signed with less than a year after playing in the NASL with the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers.

“Obviously, he took the route to Europe and fought his way through and came out now in St Pauli with a coach that I know really well,” said Klinsmann. “He told me already, ‘That kid is a fighter. He wants to prove it. He wants to show it.’  I said, ‘Well, I’ll send my people out there.’ They had a look at him and he’s coming off the bench sometimes, sometimes he gets the start, he scored his first few goals. It’s a process that he’s in that takes time.

“You’re not going to Europe and you’re going to be the superstar from one day to the next. You have to work your way through over a couple of years and every year you’ve got to get stronger otherwise they send you home. Hopefully we see a Fafa here that kind of gets a first impression by the national team program, is obviously happy to be home, but also takes it as the next step in his career and says, ‘Okay, I get it now. I go back then after the summer break to Germany and I have to become a starter, I have to become a regular goal-scorer, and I show them that I’m so hungry that I want to be part of this more often.'”

The 25-year-old Picault seems to have already gotten the message. The speedy winger was not named to the preliminary roster for the fast-approaching Copa America Centenario, but nonetheless is eager to make an impression in practice sessions and Sunday’s friendly against Puerto Rico.

Picault knows that showing well in this current camp could lead to future looks down the road, but is also aware that he has to go back to St Pauli and build on the year he just had. The 5-foot-8 Picault scored four goals in 16 games this past season, but only six of those appearances came as a starter.

“This is the first call-up, so I don’t jump to anything, but obviously I don’t want this to be the last one,” said Picault. “My objective is to push far and keep going up. It’s been literally from the bottom, so I think if somebody knows how to fight through situations and push themselves up it would be me. I look forward to doing that.”

Picault’s career has had its share of challenges. The New York native spent time as a youth with Italian side Cagliari before officially beginning his professional career with the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the NASL in 2012. He was without a club the following year, but was signed by the Strikers two years ago and did well enough there to make a move to Czech Republic outfit Sparta Praha.

His time there was short-lived. Picault spent six months there during the second half of the 2014-15 season before parting ways with the club, and afterwards signed a deal with St Pauli in September with the hopes of breaking through.

Picault made a few appearances shortly after his arrival, but did not really hit his stride until March. He played in nine games in the spring, and opened his scoring account in a loss to SC Paderborn before bagging a brace in a 2-0 win vs. VfL Bochum and netting an equalizer in a draw with Fortuna Dusseldorf.

Along the way, Klinsmann gave Picault a social media shoutout when he tweeted a congratulatory message on April 16 following the veteran’s two-goal performance. Picault thanked Klinsmann with a tweet of his own, and was spurred on by the kind words.

“It definitely motivated me to keep pushing harder and gave me some good confidence leading into the end of the season,” said Picault.

Picault has brought that confidence into this U.S. camp. While he is still adjusting to his new teammates and the speed of play at the international level, Picault has managed to make an impression already with his natural and technical abilities.

“Fafa is a hungry goal-scorer,” said Klinsmann. “He’s hungry for goals, he’s hungry taking on people, he has speed obviously. He’s not the player that you play long balls and do these type of things, but he’s quick, he smells where the ball goes, so he has a good instinct. These are things that are difficult to teach.”

Added goalkeeper Brad Guzan: “Obviously, he’s a good player. He’s got good pace. He’s comfortable with the ball at his feet.”

Picault is hoping that his performances with St Pauli down the stretch of the 2. Bundesliga campaign and his showing in this week’s U.S. camp will lead to him earning his first cap on Sunday when the Americans take on Puerto Rico in a friendly. Picault is “100 percent” committed to the U.S. despite previously accepting call-ups from but never playing for Haiti, and wants to impress in order to put an exclamation point on what has been a strong few months for him.

He might have started from the bottom, but Picault is quickly on the rise.

“It’s my first game so I have to show my qualities to the team and the head coach,” said Picault. “I expect to have a good game.”


  1. I admittedly don’t know much about Fafa, but this whole article reads like Klinsmann is calling him in only because “he tries hard” and is “hungry”. Fafa “scored four goals in 16 games this past season, but only six of those appearances came as a starter” and that’s in the second-division. Not much of a resume there, but we already know that it is impossible to figure out how Klinsmann evaluates players and decides on who to call-in. With all that said I am still intrigued to see what Fafa brings to the table and am glad to see a fresh face on the squad.

    • He likes guys with an special physical tools… you can’t teach speed. Combine that with his hunger, and moving up so fast out of the NASL and into establishing himself in Bundesleiga 2 is nothing to sneeze at.

      • I’m not “sneezing” at his accomplishments, but to be clear his accomplishments compared to other available players in the USMNT pool is nothing special. All this is highly subjective. For example you say, “and moving up so fast out of the NASL and into establishing himself in Bundesleiga 2 is nothing to sneeze at”. Lets examine that statement:

        He started in NASL in 2012 and 4 years later he is getting minutes in the Bund 2. You say that is “so fast” but I don’t believe that is fast at all (subjective). Also how established is he (subjective)? He barely started scoring and starting games towards the end of the season after being a bench player for most of the season. Was it just a short hot-streak or will he continue to progress (we shall see)?

        But I am not trying to argue with you, like I said I am also excited to see what Fafa can bring to the table. I am just saying that he is definitely unproven at club level and you can put him in the Julian Green category of- fortunate to get called up.

    • Besides Wooten not a whole lot of forwards available form Europe and Mexico for this game. Kiesewetter hasn’t played for his club since before Christmas. Wooten had 6 goals in 32 games in the same league as Fafa. Also, Fafa could play for Haiti at anytime so important to get a look so JK can evaluate him and decide if we need to cap tie him in September. Wooten isn’t getting a cal from Germany anytime soon.

      • You’re correct, Wooten was one in my radar, he started strong but fizzled half-way during the season. Not sure if it was because he now plays more on the wing or just ran out of steam. His sole invite to the national team was “uneventful”

  2. We have a shortage of speedy wingers. When it comes to finding and promoting fresh new talent… we should trust Klinsmann… even those think he is terrible in every other way should admit he has done well in this area.

    • He has been hit and miss. If you only focus on the hits then yes you can say he has done well in that area. He hasn’t been any different than our previous managers. Just off the top of my head:

      Morris (HIT); J. Green (so far MISS, but to be continued); Ibarra (definite MISS); The IceMan (so far MISS, always injured); etc.

      I’m sure you guys could help me out with some more names, both hits and misses.

      • Young guys he promoted and given chances to:

        Hits: Besler, OG, Brooks, Yedlin, Wood, Morris, Birnbaum
        Maybe: Zardes, Shea, Green, Iceman, Accosta, Chandler, Finley, Kiessewetter, Nagbe
        Misses: Alvarado, Boyd

        I don’t count the likes of Ibarra, because he never actually played him in games. Just getting called in doesn’t really count. I am also not going to count someone as a miss just because they’ve had some bad luck with injuries but haven’t shown very poorly in all their chances.

        Klinsmann has also done well getting the most out of veteran guys that were overlooked by the NATs prior to his tenure: Beckermann, Zusi, B. Evans, Ream

      • Your list is a little suspect:

        Two of your maybes are youth-level players that have barely played at all on the senior team. They haven’t done anything, how can they be considered a hit? Same for someone like Nagbe. He hasn’t done anything yet on the USMNT, he barely started playing. Same with Finlay, he only has 3 caps and very few minutes played. Chandler came on with Bob Bradley not Klinsmann. Ibarra did get played in a few USMNT games, I think he even started one game, you cant dismiss him just because. Like I said, hits and misses. Just like Bradley and Arena had their hits and misses.

  3. Here is where I don’t understand JK, he bypasses a true CF (Maars) that has shown quality and success in every league that he has played (Spain, Portugal, Bulgaria) and still doesn’t get a call. And here is a kid, just about the same age that barely is getting recognition in the 2BL and gets a call.

    • True. Not sure if jk knows those gaffers like he does the st. Pauli manager. And therein lies the sense. He is hearing about this kid from a trusted source as the article says. Still, your point is valid…we don’t get the footnotes tho so we’re left to wonder. But who do you hire when your the boss?

      • I figured that is probably the case. I do remember Maars once making the comment that he is not recognized by JK because he doesn’t play at least in 2BL.

      • KC, the Benefica transfer fiasco (from what I heard) was because his two previous clubs had a verbal agreement on the sale price and at the last minute the selling club wanted an extra 200k. Benefica balked at the deal and Maars ended up in Bulgaria for just 50k more than the original selling price.

    • Louis, thank you. Before your post, never heard of Bjorn (Maars) Johnsen.

      So I looked him up. You may be spot on but just on facts, I have to say, I can see why he has not been on the radar for call ups.

      Firstly, has a Norwegian father and started his career in Norway. Is he even interested in the USMNT? (I know he is eligible and born here).

      Secondly – more importantly, yes, he has played in those countries but…..

      Portugal and Spain – second divisions. Portugal sounds like he did well – caught fire at one point – 9 goals in 5 games. Benfica tried to buy him but apparently was $200k short of the asking price.
      Gotta think that a team like Benfica really wanted a player, $200k would not stop them, right?

      Went on to Bulgaria. Seems to have settled in. Based on stats, a starter last year.
      Not sure about this year – from what i see, been in 5 games out of 15. Scored 6 goals so far.
      Was on “B” squad at some point this season. Not sure what happened there.

      But to your point, does a quick burst of good form in Bundasliga 2. deserve a call up for Fafa?
      Not sure – as others said, an endorsement from a coach that JK knows goes a long way.

      Nonetheless, impressive knowledge from you.

      • one of these games it would be great to see Bjorn Johnsen get a shot, just for pure entertainment… but the original argument; come on! Bundesliga2 > bulgarian second div !!

        excited to see what Fafa can bring as well as a lot of the other young/fringe guys on this roster.

    • Beto, Maars always played 1st division in Bulgaria, he was and is their go-to-guy. This year he played div.2 for a short time while recovering from injury. Rest assure, he is a key player for their first team. He has been trying to get out of his contract and the word out is that he will be sold during the summer.

      • Lovech was expelled from the league after the players walked off the field during a match in December. That’s way Johnsen is playing for the 2nd division team, also they are still in season this weekend and therefore he is not available to call in since it is not on the international window.

    • KC, he was interviewed once and was asked the same question, he says he is open to playing for USA, he visits his family here in the states, I think he is from Carolina. Check out his highlight videos, very impressive, the kid is deadly in the air.

    • if I had to point at one issue with Maars, is that he doesn’t look like your prototypical CF, he is 6’4 and weighs 195 pounds. Because he plays with his back to goal and in tight spaces, he does have a funny shorten stride when attacking up close, but in open field his stride is long and very deceptive. He also possess a cannon of shot from the outside, the kid is as complete of a player that you would find in a true USA 9.


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