Robbie Russell came to Washington from Real Salt Lake to start at right back fro D.C. United. He also came to reunite with his wife, Tiana, an associate with a prominent Washington law firm. For the first time in their 12-year relationship, they are embracing careers in the same city. This is their story.
When you’re finishing reading it, proceed to the continuation of this thread for some fascinating background material about Robbie that didn’t fit into the story.....
Russell was born in Ghana. His mother, Fanny Efua-Dontoh, is Ghanaian. His father, Robert Russell, is American. They met while he was stationed in Ghana while working on a project funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). She worked for a Ghanaian women’s development program.
Because of his parents’ work, Robbie lived in Ghana, Sri Lanka, Arlington, Va., Greenwich, Conn., and Amherst, Mass. Upon moving to Washington this winter, one of his first missions was to find the neighborhood off Glebe Road where he lived and went to elementary school.
He attended high school in Amherst before heading to Duke, where he was a sociology and history major. He also earned a marketing and management certificate and a minor in statistical analysis. MLS was interested in signing him in 2001, but his heart was set on Europe.
Aside from being able to rejoin his wife, the trade to Washington allowed him to move closer to his brother, who is a real estate agent in Baltimore, and his father, who — get this — founded Virginia-based Cartoonists Rights Network International.
His parents have been divorced since he was 14, and his mother lives in Massachusetts, where she runs a day-care center.
The Russell family roots, he said, can be traced to Parley P. Pratt, one of the 12 original apostyles of the Mormon Church. Pratt’s family tree includes Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and former candidate Jon Huntsman. (Robbie was raised in the Baha’i faith.) Robbie’s great grandfather is Isaac Russell, a former New York Times reporter who, legend has it, was the first to write about the sinking of the Titanic.
Thanks to his world travels, as a player and visitor, he speaks some French, reads and writes Norwegian, knows some Danish, and has read Icelandic literature. (His first club, a semipro team, was in Iceland.)
In summary, Robbie Russell is the new Most Interesting Man in the World. (Stay thirsty, my friends.)
Russell and D.C. United Coach Ben Olsen crossed paths on the pitch in 1997: Olsen was in his third — and final — season at the University of Virginia, Russell was a freshman at Duke. (Virginia won, 2-0.)
Russell earned about $134,000 last year and agreed to a “huge paycut” to play in Washington, he said. The MLS players’ union typically releases the salary lists in the spring.
He had also taken a cut when he left Viborg in Denmark to sign with MLS in 2008.
“Moving back to the States wasn’t about money. Coming here [to Washington] wasn’t about money; it was about the family.”
Yes, he said, he is excited to be a part of United’s efforts to return to the upper echelon on MLS. He likes the core group returning this season and sees a lot of potential in the club.
I’ll have more on Russell’s place in United’s plans as the season approaches.....