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Goalkeeper Troy Perkins finds himself right at home with D.C. United
The search for work was frustrating. Without fluent Norwegian skills, she was turned down repeatedly. To meet people and occupy time, she waited tables for a few months.
"The big issue was that she wanted to have a career of her own, and not being able to do that was difficult for her," Perkins said. "Maybe I didn't reach my full potential in my career there, but I am at a point where I am happy. At some point, you have to ask yourself if it's worth being there when one of you can't work or come back here for the benefit of your family."
Language was also an issue at times for Perkins. Although English is commonly spoken in Norway, team meetings were conducted in Norwegian. Perkins had learned some, and translation was provided afterward, but "I always felt like they were leaving things out or I was missing something," he said.
Last summer, when Perkins was in the United States for national team duty, the couple began eyeing a move home. There was one scenario, however, that might have kept them in Europe: a transfer to a prominent club. According to Perkins and his agent, Patrick McCabe, Feyenoord in the Netherlands and several French teams showed interest but, in a economically lean market, a deal couldn't be reached.
With the Norwegian and MLS seasons ending around the same time late last year, Perkins appealed to Valerenga to sell him. When terms were agreed upon, Perkins wrote an emotional farewell letter to the club's supporters that Valerenga posted on its Web site.
One source said that United ended up paying a $200,000 transfer fee for Perkins's rights, a fraction of what Valerenga was seeking in Europe.
The deal was much more costly for United, though. As a national team player returning to MLS, Perkins was subject to the league's allocation process. Philadelphia was at the top of the list, so in order to acquire him, United would have to negotiate a trade. In his talks with MLS, Perkins made it clear that he would play in Washington or Philadelphia only.
Union Coach Peter Nowak, the former D.C. boss, played hardball, threatening to claim Perkins for his young club. Just as the allocation deadline approached, United agreed to hand over Brazilian midfielder Fred, the seventh overall draft pick and financial considerations for Perkins's rights.
"We needed to address the goalkeeping position," General Manager Dave Kasper said, "and getting Troy was a priority for us."
In Norway, Perkins earned an estimated $250,000 -- three times more than he was making in his previous tour in MLS. During his first stint in Washington, he supplemented his income by moonlighting at a sporting goods store and later, to prepare for a post-soccer career, as a mortgage loan processor.
With a 2010 salary comparable to his Valerenga deal, a second job will no longer be necessary. "My side job now," he said, "is babysitting."
As Perkins prepares for the next step in his career, Elizabeth has begun pursuing her own. Upon her licensing in Virginia, they will finally become a two-income household.
"You have a family and responsibilities," he said, "and those outweigh everything."