Alain Rochat’s mind has been torn for the past three weeks, stretching his focus across two countries and families — not to mention some 3,000 miles.
In the District, the 30-year-old Swiss veteran is coming to grips with what has suddenly become his home. He hasn’t had much of a chance to see the city yet — no time for that — but after two games already feels welcome in D.C. United’s locker room.
Yet for as hospitable as his new professional family has been following a trade from the Vancouver Whitecaps, Rochat’s thoughts remain in British Columbia with the pregnant wife and three children he unexpectedly had to leave behind. And there his attention will understandably remain until her mid-July due date.
“It certainly is a shock,” said United midfielder John Thorrington, who played with Rochat for two years in Vancouver. “I know myself as a husband, as a dad, it’s probably the toughest thing to go in one day, kiss your wife and your kids goodbye, and come back and say, ‘By the way, I’m going to be however many thousand miles away tomorrow.’”
For Rochat, who spent a decade playing in Europe before joining the Whitecaps in 2011, “shock” might have been an understatement.
Thinking about his family and still unaccustomed to the North American concept of midseason trades, the defender-midfielder earlier this month called such transactions “terrible” and said waiting until the offseason to act would have been the “human” decision.
Going into Saturday’s meeting at RFK Stadium between United (2-11-3) and the Whitecaps (6-5-4), however, Rochat isn’t looking to channel any sort of ill will against his former club.
“It’s decisions, opinions,” Rochat said. “I have no anger. I have nothing like that. I just want to win — that’s for sure. But it’s more because of our situation here, not because I want to show them, ‘Now you see you were wrong.’”
A veteran of the prestigious UEFA Champions League for FC Zurich, Rochat has brought an immediate dose of class to United while playing left back and defensive midfield. In a 1-0 triumph over San Jose this past weekend, his steady marking, clean touches and opportunistic attacks were key to United’s end of a 13-game winless drought.
Helping Rochat find his rhythm with the club have been the familiar presences of Thorrington and midfielder Kyle Porter, who spent the 2011 preseason with Vancouver. And Rochat has bonded with his ride, rookie left back Taylor Kemp.
“He’s new to the rules of this league, being in Vancouver one day and being told you’re transferred to the East Coast,” coach Ben Olsen said. “I think he’s handled it very professionally, and you can see the quality on the field already.”
To ease the transition, Rochat last week returned to Vancouver to, among other things, arrange his family’s move to the D.C. area, noting that United, the Whitecaps and MLS are all helping with the logistics.
“I needed those three or four days,” Rochat said, “to make everything clear over there so I can be focused here.”
In a bit of good fortune for Rochat, United following their trip to Colorado on July 7 don’t have another league match until they play at Chicago 13 days later — just an exhibition July 12 against Mexican side Chivas Guadalajara.
With his wife due during that window, Rochat after the game against Colorado will take a flight from Denver to Vancouver to hopefully be there for the birth of his fourth child.