National midfielder Leslie “Tiger” Fitzpatrick has moved up the professional ranks having signed a new contract with American Major League Soccer side Real Salt Lake on Wednesday.
The Major League expansion team had been following Fitzpatrick recently and head coach John Ellinger was further impressed by his performance in the 2006 World Cup Qualifier against the United States which led to the deal which puts him on the same team with fellow national player Marlon Rojas who signed with the club last month.
Fitzpatrick flew back to Atlanta on Friday from Trinidad before moving to Salt Lake where he had his first training session with the team on Thursday and is expected to be in their line-up for Saturday’s MLS clash with Colorado Rapids at the Rice Eccles Stadium.
“It’s a good move for me particularly at this stage of my career. It’s a step up for me from the A-League but it’s not one where I should have much adjustments to make because I’ve played here since my days at Columbia University and then at Atlanta. It’s a challenge that I’m really looking forward to,” the 26-yearold Fitzpatrick told TTFF Media on Thursday.
New York/New Jersey Metrostars had also been eyeing “Tiger” who they invited to train with them during their recent visit to Trinidad and Tobago. But the former St Mary’s College standout said he was comfortable with the move to Salt Lake which also includes Jamaican captain Andy Williams, Americans Clint Mathis, Jason Kreis and Eddie Pope and Botswanian international Dipsy Selolwane
“In the end I think the deal was the right one. With Marlon also being here makes it good because it gives us a chance to play and train together on a regular basis which should serve well for when we have to play for the National Team in the rest of qualifying matches to come,” Fitzpatrick said.
He also expressed keenness on working under recently appointed T&T coach Leo Beenhakker.
“I was able to meet him briefly last week and I think it’s obviously a step in the right direction to have a coach of his caliber in charge of the team now. We know that our chances of making it through are still very good despite the fact that we have only one point to show from three games but I’m pretty confident that we can pick up a momentum and go through with it starting from the next game against Panama.”
Fitzpatrick was an All-American at Columbia University, before playing in the A League and on the Columbus Crew's developmental squad the past few years. He scored two goals in 28 games for the Atlanta Silverbacks of the A League last season. He also had an early stint at Dutch club Rhoda FC at the age of 16.