Earlier this evening, you might have noticed a “Where are they now?” package launch on our website. Several of our staff writers, columnists and editors have worked to catch up with athletes and coaches who have left local teams or schools recently.
Here’s a link to my story on Nathan Sturgis and Sanna Nyassi leaving Sounders FC in the expansion draft. I wasn’t able to track down Nyassi, but I got Sturgis on the phone about a week ago and here’s the transcript of that conversation.
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(From the outside it seemed like a bizarre 24-48 hour stretch, going from Seattle to Vancouver to Toronto. What was it like from your end?) “I was actually home in Florida for Thanksgiving, just hanging out and waiting to see what happens. I saw I was picked up by Vancouver and was like, ‘Oh, OK.’ Then I didn’t hear from them for a while and I thought that was strange. Later that night I got a call from Toronto saying that they traded for me. That’s basically how I found out.”
(How difficult is it to change teams and cities? Is it something that you have to accept as part of the job?) “It’s definitely part of the business. It’s something that — depending on who you are — you don’t have much control over what happens. On a day like that you just wait and see what happens. There’s not a whole lot you can do so it doesn’t make much sense to get too worked up about it. Things can happen and I got picked up. I was home, so I got to enjoy the holiday and then figure things out after that. You just got to take it in stride and process things as they come.”
(Usually when a professional athlete leaves a team it’s because someone was unhappy. That wasn’t the case here, all parties were happy with the situation. Does that make things more difficult to process?) “Yeah, it’s kind of a unique thing in our league with how the expansion draft works. I had a good year last year and really enjoyed my time in Seattle. I didn’t really have a reason to want to go somewhere else. But the way the league is set up and the expansion draft is set up, teams have to make a decision on who they’re going to protect — even though there are guys they don’t want to leave and guys don’t want to leave as well. In the end, guys have to be exposed and I was one of those guys. It’s a little different in a sense that I didn’t necessarily want to leave, they didn’t necessarily want me to leave, but it’s just the structure of the expansion draft so that’s how it goes.”
(How do you reflect on your year personally? It seemed like a year, the second half especially, where you were able to showcase what you can do. And it showed with where you were taken in the expansion draft and the draft pick used to trade for you.) “It was a great year. I was able to stay healthy and really get fit this year and ready to play. I got the opportunity to step into the starting lineup and we got on a really good run and made the playoffs. I felt that I was playing well and it was great to work hard and get playing time. It felt really good. Everything was going well in Seattle, but for Toronto to trade a first-round pick for me definitely is good. It shows that they want me. That’s important, that you’re on a team that wants you there.”
(I’m sure there’s a list of things, but what will you miss about Seattle?) “I’ll miss the team. I was treated very well here by the team, the coaching staff and also the fans. I think playing every week in Qwest Field in front of 36,000 fans, I’ll definitely miss that. But Toronto has great fans as well. They pack their stadium, so I’m going to a great place to play. But I’ll miss Qwest Field.”
(How do you look at it as a player going to a team that’s in flux in terms of the front office and coaching situation? Also one that’s underachieved and hasn’t made the playoffs in its four years.) “They’re making changes and still looking to get a head coach and a couple other positions so at this point the only thing I can do is get fit and get ready for preseason. Once preseason starts things will start to fall into place. Those are things that are out of your control. As a player you really need to focus on what you can do, and that’s being ready to go once the season starts.”
(Are you getting used to this moving thing? I think this is your fourth team in your young career already.) “I’m a semipro at moving now. I’m definitely used to it. It’s a little different now having to go to a different country. That’s the main thing that adds more to it. It adds some more logistical things to take care of, but I’m used to moving around.”
(What are some of those extra challenges?) “The club has been good at helping me out. When I get up there I’ll be able to talk to the players more about it. It’s got different health insurance, it’s different in terms of how you’re paid, it’s a different currency, you have to get a work permit — it’s a different country so everything you have to do here you have to do there, but it’s different. I just have to get used to how things are over there. Canada is pretty close to the U.S., so there’s not a huge culture difference or anything like that, but there’s a lot of little things that you don’t necessarily think about that you have to figure out as you go along.”