Fafa Picault does a lot of good things for the Union that often get overlooked.
On the field, he’s one of the Union’s most-frequent shooters and chance creators, and his boundless energy helps fuel the pressing defense. Off the field, he’s a leader in the locker room, using his knowledge of seven languages to bring together players from 11 countries.
But there was one thing missing through the first nine games of the season, and he knew it: he had yet to score. That finally changed in Wednesday’s 2-0 home win over FC Cincinnati.
“I feel like I’ve been playing well — I’ve been doing a lot off the ball, I’ve been doing what I can for the team,” he said after the game. “But, you know, I always have to read people’s crap on Twitter: I [stink] again, whatever. But I know what I’m doing, and that’s one goal, [with] hopefully a lot more to come.”
Picault said it with a smile, but there were plenty of frustrating moments in the game. Before scoring, he was caught offside five times, often by narrow margins.
“Offside isn’t a crime, it’s trying to flirt with the back line,” he quipped. He cited legendary striker Filippo Inzaghi, a retired star of Italy’s national team and Juventus and AC Milan.
“Back in the day, he was offside maybe 10 times and scores two goals," Picault said.
Inzaghi scored more than 300 goals in his career, which means he was doing something right.
Picault had to change his playing style this year, adapting from winger on a three-man front line to forward in a two-man tandem.
“It does take time," he said. “I played the left wing for the last two years, and now I get thrown up front, which I’m more than comfortable with playing, but you’re playing up front with no wingers, so it’s a whole different style of soccer."
Some of the differences are subtle, and some are stark.
“I’m trying to find how to be up top and also create width for the team, where I can get isolated on the wings and go one-on-one with defenders and put the ball in the box,” he said. "I’m getting closer and closer to understanding it. Tonight, I think it came through.”
Lately, Picault has struck up a good partnership with Kacper Przybylko. It’s a classic big-and-little duo: Przybylko is 6-foot-4 and 195 pounds, while Picault is 5-foot-8 and 140 pounds.
“He likes to hold the ball, and he likes to get in the box, so it’s pretty easy for us to work together,” Picault said. “I’m usually lurking, and it allows me to move freely, because he’s usually central. He’ll move a bit as well off the ball, but the fact that he’s such a target makes it easy for me to use my pace and get to see the ball a bit more, which makes me feel comfortable.”