SUNRISE, Fla. A year ago, Robbie Findley was a rookie for the L.A. Galaxy, unsure about his professional future and stuck way down the striker depth chart.
Overnight his fortunes changed when he was traded to Real Salt Lake.
He became an immediate starter, led his new team in goals and caught the eyes of the U.S. National Team. Now he's on the fast track not only to start for RSL this season but also to earn a spot on the Under-23 National Team at the 2008 Summer Olympics in Beijing.
"I'm thankful for what I've gotten so far," said Findley. "At the same time I've been putting in a lot of hard work, extra work, and a lot of times you do extra you start going places."
Findley is one of three RSL players who will almost surely represent the U.S. in China this summer, along with Chris Seitz and Nathan Sturgis.
RSL coach Jason Kreis isn't ready to anoint Findley just yet. He's still young and has a lot to learn.
"He's still got a bright future, but I would hasten to say his career has come full circle," said Findley.
The next step for Findley is consistency. After a scintillating debut for RSL last year in which he scored two goals against D.C. United in late June, he largely disappeared over the next month before re-emerging against Houston with a game-winning goal in early August. Instead of sandwiching several mediocre performances around a pair of great ones, Kreis said the key is being good all the time. Kreis knows as well as anyone the challenges with being mentally sharp every single day.
"It's difficult ... being focused day in and day out in the training sessions, and week in and week out in the games," said Kreis, who reiterated that taking care of the small things on a daily basis lends itself to consistency in matches.
Real's depth was so thin at forward last year, even when Findley played poorly he was usually still penciled into the starting lineup the next match. With Fabian Espindola and Yura Movsisyan also in the hunt for the two starting forward spots and enjoying great preseasons playing time will need to be earned. Kyle Brown is also vying for playing time.
Various national team appearances this past offseason can only help Findley with his consistency. He was called into a full National Team camp in Switzerland last November, and then he spent nearly a combined month with the U-23s in December and January.
"Every time you get called into National Team, whether it's the full National Team or the Olympic Team, you come back to your club team, you have a little air about you, a confidence gained from those experiences," said Kreis.
Findley is still amazed that all of these doors were opened by a trade that blind-sided him last summer.
"When it comes down to it that's what it's all about, playing time, to be able to see what you're capable of doing, how effective you are," said Findley. "With L.A., the situation I was in was difficult because there were five or six forwards, and I think I was the only rookie forward there. (In Utah) I started the first seven games; I think that really helped me showcase my abilities and helped me build my confidence even more."
Findley tallied eight total goals last year, two with L.A. and six with Real Salt Lake. If he continues to progress, there's no reason he shouldn't duplicate those numbers this year, in addition to perhaps becoming an Olympian."To tell you the truth I never really even thought about it until I got approached and started going to these camps. if I were able to be there that would be one of the best moments of my life," said Findley.