Ryan Futogaki: We Hardly F**king Knew Thee

onenil.gifAs the Fire prepares for the 2004 MLS SuperDraft on Friday, January 16th, it is doing of bit of house cleaning. Luckily for Fire fans, notorious goalkeeper Curtis Spiteri, Henry Ring’s replacement for the last few games of the season, was released. During his only minutes with the Fire, against the Columbus Crew in their last game of the regular season, he allowed six goals in just one half of play.

Spiteri broke an MLS record in the process and left us traveling Fire fans who made the six hour trek feeling a bit let down. It was easily the worst goal keeping I have ever witnessed. In fact, the only other game that comes to mind with that kind of poor keeping is when I was playing with the Seattle Stallions in Canada and our ‘keeper (the coaches son) let in seven goals. But he generously spread them out over two halves of play, unlike Spiteri’s mesh-like presence in goal. However, our ‘keeper was only 8 years old and probably not even five feet tall yet. So long Spiteri. Maybe you can get a job with a pro dodgeball team. Lord knows they would never get close to hitting you.

The Fire also chose to release midfielder Ryan Futogaki, a budding UCLA prospect that had one of the foulest mouths I have ever heard. His play on the field was what was expected as a third stringer. He notched one assist on the season during six games played (two starts), but never really shined as brightly as one might have hoped.

I feel a bit sad about Futo. It’s not as if he was going to become the next DaMarcus Beasley in just six games. Hell, he had a ways to go to become the next Justin Mapp. But I was lucky enough to have been able to hang with Futo, shoot the shit and watch him miss crosses and subsequently swear up a storm during many of the practices I attended during the 2003 season.
The first time I remember meeting Ryan Futogaki was at a practice session before playing the Revolution May 17th. I was excited to see what surprises he may have in store, especially as he was a UCLA product, like Carlos Bocanegra and Ante Razov. After witnessing a very fast and dexterous Mapp during earlier practice sessions, I got kind of stoked that Sarachan may have some near magical powers picking future stars, even in the sixth round of the draft.

I watched the Fire as they ran and stretched and ran some more, then settle down for a few drills on a particularly hot Naperville day. Crossing drills are set up by the forward, starting about ten yards past the 18, and crossing out to the wing. Then the winger holds it while sprinting down the sideline and drills a cross when the time is just right for the forward to head in or volley a goal past Zach Thornton or Henry Ring. Most goals were routine. Pass, cross, score. Razov potted a few, Armas tipped a number in and Jaqua even got a pretty blistering header past an outstretched Thornton. But whenever Futo came up all I remembered was the cursing, probably because I was ten feet from him when he was missing his crosses. Not that he missed many. I just can’t seem to recall anything but his swearing and my doubling over with laughter.

Having hung around with scooterists, skinheads and soccer fans for most of my 12 year stay here in Chicago, I’m used to a bit of foul language. As a bicycle mechanic, I thrive on it. In fact, I have been repediately yelled at by Marco, a skinhead friend of mine for cursing in his mother’s house, on the street outside of the church where we play soccer on Sundays and in front of anyone under the age of 21. But to hear such a young talent indulge in such vivid cursing was something I can’t help but remember.

We ended up having lunch a few times after practice together, meeting at events where I was writing or shooting pictures for the team. Every time he got in a game, I hoped he would be as cool on the field during a game as he was just hanging around, eating a burrito and complaining about how assistant coach Denis Hamlett never brings donuts anymore before practice.

But it never happened. He didn’t have much of a chance with the Fire, mostly because they seem to be loaded on midfielders. He was an ample replacement, a promising talent and one hell of a good guy. Futo never became a great Fire player. Most of you probably don’t even remember him notching any minutes during a game. Like so many other young American soccer talents, he could have been great, given the chance.

God knows, if his talent at handling the ball was half as good as his mouth, heId be another Beasley. I wish you the best, Futo.

End Notes: Boca [and, since Geoff sent this story, Brian McBride, sorry it took me two weeks to post it oEd] off to Fulhamnbest of luck! Peter Nowak to start as head coach of D.C. United for 2004 season. Again, a hell of a good guy. Just read my article on his retirement at the beginning of the season for a taste.

And to Bryan and Tracieo best of luck! Give my best to wee Milena.