On June 6th, Alain Rochat received a call that would bring him 2,897 miles across North America. For someone who has lived in Switzerland, France and Canada, changing the scenery for soccer’s sake is nothing new, but the talented defender/midfielder said this move was “the most sudden.”
“I knew there would be a big move that year or a big decision,” said Rochat. “But once I got the news, it’s like ‘OK, let’s do it.’ I like the challenge, I like the new experiences. I always said I’d like to see the United States, maybe on the east coast as well.”
The decision to change his area code (and country) involved more than just D.C. Untied, Vancouver Whitecaps FC and Rochat, himself. Alain is a dedicated husband and a proud father of three with his fourth child due in July.
“I think, for their future, it’s good for them to have another vision and show that it’s not always going to be everybody together,” said Rochat. “Open your mind, see new stuff.”
While he looks ahead to July optimistically, he admits being away from his pregnant wife, six-year-old daughter, four-year-old son and soon-to-be-two-year-old daughter is harder for him than for his little ones.
“The first two days I’m here, I couldn’t sleep and missed them so much,” revealed Rochat with a heart-warming smile on his face. “In July, when the baby’s going to be born I can bring them all here, and it’s going to be very cool. I can’t wait to find a house, a school and show them their new place. I can’t wait for it in a couple of weeks.”
Though eagerly awaiting his family’s arrival, Rochat is happy to be in the nation’s capital.
“I look forward to the free museums,” answered Rochat when asked what he most looks forward to seeing here in D.C. “It’s good to get an idea about the history. And I look forward to going to a hockey game as well.”
In addition to museums and hockey games, Rochat also added taking a stroll along the Potomac River and experiencing spring’s Cherry Blossoms. While these sites and experiences on the 30-year-old’s must-see list are, well, D.C.’s must-sees, there is a particular experience that brought out the little kid in Alain—playing Real Madrid in the Bernabéu.
“It’s like it’s another sport,” recalled Rochat, whose smile grew bigger, eyes wider and gestures more animated with each word. “The grass is perfect. There’s 75,000 people in the stands; it’s huge. It’s like the stadium is going to fall on you. You can’t hear yourself talking on the pitch—that was really, really amazing.”
After a short pause to figure out how to paint the perfect picture of Santiago Bernabéu Stadium, he continued.
“It’s crazy. Then there are a few steps, you go up and you see the stands and it seems like it never ends. You go out, and there is no end, it’s so high. It’s unbelievable. Usually you’re not focused on what’s around, but at this point I was like a kid. That was really amazing.”
D.C. United’s John Thorrington, and Rochat’s former teammate in Vancouver (2011-12), referenced this game on the day United signed Rochat when explaining the talent and experience Rochat will bring, and has brought, to D.C.
“There aren’t many guys in the League who have played at the Bernabéu in a Champions League game,” said Thorrington. “I think that experience and professionalism on the field will certainly help.”
According to Head Coach Ben Olsen, Thorrington was right on point. After last Saturday’s win over San Jose, Olsen had only positive things to say about the Canadian international.
“He was great,” said Olsen. “He’s just what we thought he was.”
With the invaluable ability to play “anywhere,” Rochat has featured both in the midfield and in the back line for most teams he has played for. So, being “just what we though he was,” is a little foreign to the versatile player.
“I remember some guy in Europe coming to a game and saying: ‘Oh, we need a left-back.’ He called me, ‘I’m going to watch you in the next game,’ and he came to the game and I played midfield or the opposite,” recalled Rochat.
Though it might have its downsides, being a versatile player also helped Rochat in his career.
“It [being versatile] helped me at the beginning when I needed to make myself a starter, because I could play anywhere,” said Rochat. “At the end, as a personal career, I think all the time I played for the team first…I use my versatility as an advantage for the team—as long as the team has success, I don’t care.”
Rochat’s selflessness is evident to Thorrington, who described him as “really grounded” with “a great support system with his family.”
“He’s just a good family guy, and he is very professional,” said Thorrington. “He’ll have a positive impact.”
And so far, Rochat has done just that.
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