It was 5:22 p.m. on Jan. 14. Some Michigan students were in class, some were studying, and some were sleeping. But one Michigan senior sat anxiously on his computer as he found out his dream had come true. Mauro Fuzetti had just been drafted by Major League Soccer’s Kansas City Wizards.
Fuzetti’s journey began in Rio de Janeiro, where he was born. The son of a former Brazilian professional soccer player, Fuzetti found his love of the game in the futebol obsessed culture. Fuzetti modeled his game on Brazilian superstars Ronaldo and Ronaldinho.
However, it was in his move to Houston where Fuzetti became a star in his own right.
At Stratford High School, Fuzetti was a playmaker and three-time team MVP. After choosing to play collegiately at Michigan, Fuzetti began a stellar career, in which he was a four-year starter for the Wolverines, garnering All-Big Ten honorsin his junior and senior seasons. As his time in Ann Arbor came to a close, his attention turned towards the 2010 MLS draft.
Luckily for Fuzetti, he had a friend to help him through the process. Peri Marošević, Fuzetti’s teammate for three years at Michigan, experienced the same process the previous year. He was drafted No. 5 overall by FC Dallas.
“We talked a lot about the whole process,” Fuzetti said. “Everything I was going through he had gone through. Step-by-step he was giving me advice with the agents and the combine.”
The MLS combine, which took place Jan. 9-12 would prove pivotal in determining Fuzetti’s MLS prospects. More than 60 of the best prospects came together to demonstrate their skills and scrimmage against one another fighting to prove their draft stock.
“It’s different than playing for your college team,” Fuzetti said. “On a college team everyone is a good player, but they are still on certain levels, being freshmen, sophomores and upperclassmen. But at the combine everyone is at the same level of quality, so the speed of play and the level is just a little bit higher. It’s a lot more fun to play and it’s a lot better quality soccer.”
Coming out of the combine, Fuzetti caught the eye of the Kansas City Wizards.
“At the combine we wanted to address a couple of our needs,” Kansas City assistant coach Kerry Zagavin said. “One of them being a good, solid midfield player. Mauro at the draft looked to possess some of the qualities that would make him attractive within our team.”
And while he hadn’t been one of the most heralded players going into the combine, Fuzetti held his own against the best players in the nation.
“He makes good decisions on the ball,” Zagavin said. “Some guys play more with athleticism and some guys play more with their intelligence within the game and I think Mauro brings the latter of that. … Mauro is good with his right foot and his left foot but his timing coming out of midfield and ability to get himself involved and integrated into the game is pretty good.”
With only two days between the end of the combine and the MLS Draft, Fuzetti was left with nothing left to do but wait for his name to be called.
On draft day, Fuzetti had to wait through forty picks until he was drafted 41st-overall in the third round.
“Only the first round was shown on ESPN,” Fuzetti said. “So after that you had to follow it on your computer, which is even worse. You have to wait name by name to pop up on the computer, but once you finally see your name it’s the best feeling ever.”
The elation over being drafted was short lived however, as he was soon off to Kansas City to participate in training camps and fight for a roster spot. Looming over the league, however, are labor negotiations that have threatened a lockout this season. Fuzetti admitted that he does think about a potential lockout, but as it’s outside of his control, he tries to prepare for the season as best as he can.
The Wizards’ experienced players like Josh Wolff and Davy Arnaud, both U.S. National Team members and MLS veterans — have provided leadership for Fuzetti, making the adjustment to his new team easier.
“I’ve actually had a chance to have dinners with both as a group,” Fuzetti said. “It’s nice to have people like that who are willing to share information with you and try to make you more successful.”
After only the beginning of the preseason, Fuzetti has experienced a level of soccer far more difficult and intense than he experienced at Michigan. Zagavin says that Fuzetti has shown himself well so far in camp.
Still, neither Fuzetti nor Zagavin can make any guarantees for his MLS future. As a middle-round draft pick, nothing is a given for Fuzetti. The whole Wizards organization understands that in an MLS where over 80 percent of its players have non-guaranteed contracts, player will be cut if he stops producing.
Fuzetti has an opportunity though, playing for a Wizards team that was third worst in the MLS last season. Zagavin admitted that the Wizards are going through a youth movement and are looking for rookies to contribute. Even with that, Fuzetti has modest goals for his rookie year.
“Just getting some playing time as a rookie,” Fuzetti said when asked about his goals, “establishing some sort of role on the team where I can come in and make an impact in the game.”
But, even though he is taking a pragmatic approach to this season, that does not mean he doesn’t have bigger goals for the future.
“As far as my highest goals go,” Fuzetti said. I probably am looking to play in the MLS three, four, or five years and then depending on how well I do, be able to go play in Europe somewhere.”
The boy who grew up in Brazil admiring Ronaldo and Ronaldinho still dreams of following them to Europe.