FRISCO, Texas — At the peak of his career in the NFL, Chad “Ochocinco” Johnson was nearly unguardable. He used his speed and the ability to cut or stop at any given moment to beat defenders, and there was nothing they could do about it.
Over time, once his dominance was taking shape, Johnson coined the phrase “Slow feet don’t eat” — meaning if you’re quick, you’re going to eat more than slower players at your level. The harder you work, the more rewards you’ll reap.
Winger Fafá Picault, newly acquired by FC Dallas via trade with the Philadelphia Union, uses that same motto today. His speed and quickness on the left wing has given defenders in MLS headaches from the first season he joined the league in 2017.
In three seasons in MLS, Picault has played in a total of 89 matches and has scored 21 goals along with 12 assists.
“Slow feet don’t eat,” Picault said. “I grew up between New York and Miami, and in Miami we have Chad Ochocinco over here. I grew up around a lot of guys that ended up going to the NFL. It’s been a motto because of Chad. I just took over — since he’s retired, I’m allowed to. It’s definitely something I’ve taken with me because I’m quick.”
The 2019 season with the Union was a bit of a different one for Picault, who was put into different positions than he was used to. It got to a point a few months ago where he saw himself being out of the picture in Philadelphia once the season ended. The club hired a new sporting director last summer — Ernst Tanner — and formation and tactical changes followed.
“I didn’t have a position anymore because of my versatility,” Picault said. “I was no longer that left winger that just goes at guys and takes over games. I had to play a lot of different roles at once. It became a bit more complicated for me, and I’m understanding of it. But it was time for me to move on, and I think this is definitely the right step for myself and Dallas. I was beyond excited when I knew that was happening.”
Picault is a well-traveled man. His career began at the age of 16 after he joined Serie A side Cagliari, where he spent six seasons. He then played in the NASL afterwards on the Tampa bay Rowdies and Fort Lauderdale Strikers. In 2015, he jumped around from Czech side, Sparta Prague, and FC St. Pauli in Germany’s second division. Two years later, he joined MLS and the Union.
Because he’s lived in so many different countries, Picault is now fluent in five different languages — English, Spanish, Creole, French and Portuguese. In Dallas, he will get to experience something new — living in Texas and playing in the Western Conference.
“It’s a new experience for me,” Picault said. “I’ve traveled around the world, but I’m an east coast guy. So, getting to jump on the west is exciting, and Dallas is an awesome city — a city that I’ve experienced very little of. I’ve been there a few times, playing in the Dallas Cup. Being in the league, I’ve gone to Dallas once or twice, but now it’s an opportunity to live there as opposed to just experiencing it for just a few days. I’m really excited about it.”
Picault will be able to fit in nicely into FC Dallas head coach Luchi Gonzalez’s system. The club recently traded forward Dominique Badji to Nashville SC during the offseason, so the starting left-wing spot is up for grabs at the moment. There will be competition between Picault and Santiago Mosquera, and depending on how the rest of the roster and formation shakes out, possibly Paxton Pomykal as well.
The timing to join FC Dallas was right for both player and club. Picault said tactically, he sees it as a good fit.
“It’s a strong team that maybe just needed one or two tweaks, and I think looking forward, it’s going to be a very strong season, overall,” Picault said. “What I bring is speed, deep runs and technical ability on the sides and in the middle when I have to. I’m looking to score goals and create chances for myself and others. The gritty side of me — I’m ready to roll up my sleeves and get to work and win it all by any means. I think it’s going to be a very good fit, and I’m excited to work under Luchi.”
Another veteran joins the youngest team in MLS following a season where the team made the playoffs under a first-year head coach. In an interesting coincidence, the first game of the 2020 MLS season for FC Dallas will be at home to Picault’s old team — the Philadelphia Union.
“I treat every game the same,” Picault said. “Once you start to make differences in who you’re playing, revenge or whatever the case is, you mess your own self psychologically. I want to destroy every defense I’m playing against. I want to give everything I can. I don’t see Philly like [any team] differently. I want to give everything for my team and everything for 90 minutes. It’s a blessing to be able to play this beautiful game.”