HEADLINES

Life is good for Atiba Harris

FRISCO — Life is definitely good for Atiba Harris, and he knows it.

Now in his 12th MLS season and second stint with FC Dallas, a serious MLS Cup contender for which he has started 11 games in 2016, he also is a fixture with the St. Kitts and Nevis national team and has a great family cheering him on.

Anyone who meets Harris, 31, immediately notices how grateful the versatile veteran is. Whether it’s a friendly smile and a kind word to a fan or offering encouragement to a younger teammate, his positive energy is something he shares without hesitation.

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“It [that sense of gratitude] came from my parents,” Harris said. “We didn’t grow up with a lot, so [we] always showed appreciation for what we had back then. I think a lot has to do with my parents and the community I was raised in.”

In 2006, Harris became the first player from St. Kitts and Nevis, a Caribbean nation of 46,000, to sign with MLS when Real Salt Lake signed him. After two seasons with RSL and 11/2 with Chivas USA, he was traded to Dallas in July 2009 and was part of FCD’s 2010 MLS Cup team before being picked that fall in the expansion draft by Vancouver.

Harris has had seven different MLS employers, but no matter where he’s played, he’s never forgotten how blessed he is to make a living playing a game he loves.

“Yeah, soccer is my life,” Harris said. “Without soccer, who knows where I would have ended up? I’m very fortunate and thankful for this situation.”

Harris has also played all over the field, lining up at striker, midfielder and most recently at defender, after FCD coach Oscar Pareja moved him to the back two seasons ago. But even as he’s frequently changed teams and positions, one constant has been his family, who continue to be a driving force in his life.

“Yeah, my family is everything,” Harris said. “I have to give props to my wife, she does a lot. When we’re on the road, she holds down the fort with three kids. It’s always fun going back home to them. They give me a reason to work even harder.”

Harris’ professionalism and team-first attitude has also made him a great mentor for younger teammates, such as third-year striker Tesho Akindele, who sits next to Harris in the locker room.

“He’s been huge,” Akindele said. “He’s just a good person. If you’re having a bad day, he’s the kind of guy that is like, ‘Man, our job is great, our life is great, just keep your head up.’ He’s always that calming influence, which is a really good thing to have around.”

Stephen Hunt is a Frisco-based freelance writer.

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