When Republic FC’s newest addition, Fatai Alashe, was selected for his first career Major League Soccer start with San Jose Earthquakes in 2015, he had the honor of doing so inside arguably the league’s most intimidating venue.
The Quakes traveled to Seattle on March 15 to take on a Sounders FC side loaded with talent inside a packed house.
San Jose was searching for its first win of the season and despite falling behind early, Alashe and company stormed back and stunned Sounders following a 3-2 result. However, it wasn’t the smoothest of starts Republic FC’s most recent signing endured during his MLS career, but it was one that no doubt helped to mold Alashe into the resilient player he is today.
And heading into Friday’s scrimmage at San Jose, Alashe is returning to face the club he made his first-ever appearance and start with – not to mention, the first player to score a goal in the Earthquakes’ stadium.
Fatai Alashe: “I was buzzing still from the last week when I got my debut and I was like, ok, this will be the test, at the Sounders. You always hear about playing in the stadium, the fans, leading up to the game that week some the guys were telling stories of their first experiences in Seattle. They’re like, it’s kind of crazy, there are a lot of people. If you haven’t played in front of this many people, it’s going to be crazy. I’m like, I’ll be fine, whatever. When you’re young you’re like, it’s easy, no problem. One thing they told me was about how [the fans] clap as you’re doing the walkout and they were like, ‘this will be like something you’ve never experienced’ and I remember when it happened I was like ‘this is amazing but I am so scared!’ he laughed.
“We kicked off, we played it around the back a little bit, someone tried to pass me the ball in the middle and it was probably two yards away from me and Clint Dempsey just came and smashed into my side. I fell down, he took the ball, played it out wide, the guy he played it out to wide crossed it into the box, boom, 1-0, 30 seconds into the game!"
photo credit: Major League Soccer
“Luckily the game kept going and I started to settle into it a bit. We ended up winning the game, which was awesome, came back and won 3-2. So, it was quite an experience and I think it showed me after feeling 30 seconds in that this isn’t a level I’m not at, it gave me the confidence to say that I can play with these guys.”
FA: “I was excited, I was happy to have the opportunity. It’s something you always dream of as a professional soccer player, the dream is to play, and I was a little disappointed I didn’t get to start in the last game but I was excited – I really felt hyper-focused – because if it’s the first time you start in an MLS game, it’s cool, it’s a new experience. All the prep was different throughout the week, doing set pieces with the starters, that was the first time I had done that. It was a cool experience, something that I was happy and excited about it but it was also a start for me trying to best prepare myself for games.”
“I’m not sure if I told them… I sometimes like to just let them find out when everyone else finds out. I don’t know why I do it but sometimes I think it’s better like that, give them a little surprise. My family has always been super supportive, whenever I do tell them, they’re excited. My mom tells me the same before every game, she just says working hard, like always, so that’s the mindset I have going into the game and as long as I work hard, the rest of the game will come to me.”
FA: “I think they might have, but to be honest I was blacked out, I have no idea!” he joked.
“In the stadium, just looking around, like ‘wow, this is really about to happen’. The whole warm-up, I was just super focused, ready to play. People could have said anything to me, I would have had no idea.”
FA: “Even in the team, winning road games in MLS is difficult, no matter where it is. A game like that, in Seattle, it’s always a difficult game. Just that moment with the team after that first win, we were all excited, we were all happy, those are moments in sports that you live for. That moment with the team and that bond that you guys have after a win, that’s special.”
FA: "Loud. Just really loud."
“It was a lot of texts. But to be fair, I had the draft, so a lot of people had reached out which was really nice. Then that game, being the first start, everyone that was able to watch it was like ‘congrats’ which I thought was really cool to get that recognition from the people you care about. But for me, the biggest thing after the game, I was just relieved. You have all this build up to [the match] and then the moment hits and to have gone through it and won the game, I thought, ah, that was nice, I’m thankful for this, that was awesome.”
“I think that’s part of the whole experience, that first 30 seconds of the game. To be honest, my mental state was in shock. I’ve never felt like that in my whole career. I’ve had moments in my career that don’t go great, but I’ve never questioned my own ability to play the game of soccer. In that moment, sitting on the field, I was like, ‘wow, is this the first time where I’ve gotten to a level where this is too much?’ but obviously when you’re in that moment, you’re like ‘well, there’s 89 minutes left in this game so there’s no time to waste and think about this’. So I was proud that I was able to push those first 30 seconds aside and just continue the game and get the most out of it.”
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