Soccer

Miami’s “Fafa” Picault signs with Philadelphia Union

Fabrice “Fafa” Picault, seen training with the U.S. national team in Miami last summer, is thrilled to be back in America with the Philadelphia Union
Fabrice “Fafa” Picault, seen training with the U.S. national team in Miami last summer, is thrilled to be back in America with the Philadelphia Union El Nuevo Herald

Fabrice “Fafa” Picault, who honed his soccer skills in South Florida before heading to Italy at 16 to begin his pro career, is thrilled to be back in the United States. He signed a one-year contract on Thursday with Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union.

Picault is a speedy 25-year-old forward who had been playing for St. Pauli in the German second division since 2015. Before that, he was at AC Sparta Prague, spent 2014 with the Fort Lauderdale Strikers, 2012 with the Tampa Bay Rowdies and five years before that with Cagliari in Italy.

Last year, then-U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann invited Picault to a national team training camp, and he has been on the radar of MLS clubs for quite some time.

“I’m extremely excited to join this organization and move to this great city, and close to my loved ones,” Picault told the Miami Herald. “I’m really looking forward to a strong successful season and enjoying myself while doing it. The staff and players have made me feel very comfortable, and that makes it easier for a player when switching continents.”

Picault’s parents live in Cutler Bay, but he has relatives in New York City, where he was born, and his godfather lives in Maryland. Philadelphia is the latest stop on a journey he began dreaming about as a young boy playing youth soccer for West Kendall, Coral Springs, Weston and Miami Strike Force. He attended Killian High for a year and then left for Europe.

“I believe that my time in Germany allowed me to grow as an individual and a player,” Picault said. “Between league play, cups and friendlies, I’ve gotten to play against and perform well against some top European teams, which is satisfying but only leaves me hungry to accomplish so much more.”

Union executives have high hopes for Picault, whose grandfather Max Antoine played for the Haitian National Team and father Leslie played in the Major Indoor Soccer League.

“We are excited to bring Fafa to our club for the 2017 season,” Union sporting director Earnie Stewart said. “He provides depth for us and brings a lot of excitement with his speed and ability to move up and down the pitch.”

His speed was one of his main selling points.

“Fafa Picault adds an element of speed that I can’t teach,” Union coach Jim Curtin said. “It’s a different level of speed. He can really fly and comes from a good environment in Germany. He’s hungry.”

That is the same adjective used by Klinsmann describing Picault last summer.

“He’s a hungry goalscorer, takes on people. He has speed, smells where the ball goes, good instincts. These are things that are difficult to teach.”

▪ Miami FC opens camp: Miami FC starts training for the 2017 season on Monday morning at St. Thomas University. Coach Alessandro Nesta and his 28 players will begin preparations for their second season. They have preseason games planned against MLS teams Toronto FC and Chicago Fire, and their season begins March 25.

The club signed six new players over the off season — former NASL Golden Boot winner Stefano Pinho, defender Tyler Ruthven, midfielder Dylan Mares, 2016 NASL Best XI midfielder Michel, midfielder Cizario and goalkeeper Ryan Herman.

Cameron defends Trump: Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron, who plays for the U.S. national team, says he supports President Donald Trump’s immigration policy that temporarily bars people entry into the U.S. from seven majority Muslim countries.

The executive order was criticized by U.S. captain Michael Bradley last week, who said Trump was “out of touch” with America.

Cameron told Sports Illustrated: “I believe it’s important to support our president, whether he was your candidate or not. I am pleased he is making security of all Americans one of his top priorities. Our enemies have stated — and in Europe they have proven — they will take advantage of lax immigration procedures for the purposes of staging attacks. A temporary pause on immigration for the purpose of evaluating and improving vetting procedures makes sense.

“The United States is one of the most generous and compassionate nations. Our ability to care for and support countries and refugees in need resides in our own sense of security. If we don’t feel safe, how can we protect others?”

Who’s leading

English Premier League: Chelsea (59), Tottenham (50), Arsenal (47), Liverpool and Manchester City (46).

La Liga: Real Madrid (46), Barcelona (45), Sevilla (42), Atletico Madrid (39), Real Sociedad (35).

Serie A: Juventus (51), Napoli (48), Roma (47), Inter (42), Lazio (40).

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (46), Leipzig (42), Dortmund and Hoffenheim (34), Hertha Berlin (33).

Ligue 1: Monaco (52), Nice and PSG (49), Lyon (37).

On TV

Sunday: Manchester City vs. Swansea (8:30 a.m., NBCSN); Leicester City vs. Manchester United (11 a.m., NBCSN); Pumas UNAM vs. Pachuca (1 p.m., Univision); Celta Vigo vs. Real Madrid (2:35 p.m., BEINÑ).

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