I don’t watch a lot of college soccer. I like it, but it just happens to be on at odd times or not on at all. Occasionally, friends and I will mingle with students up at Negoesco Stadium and taken in a game of the “true” soccer Dons of the University of San Francisco.
However, no game, no performance below the pro level can I so vividly recall as UCLA’s 4-0 drubbing of Virginia in the semis of the 2006 College Cup Series.
In that game, David Estrada flat-out owned the left offensive side of the field for the Bruins, with the Cavaliers defenders basically doing his bidding. The left flanker went bang bang with two quality goals in a two-minute stretch–one a dazzling splice job between two would-be defenders–and forever imprinted his skills in my mind.
More amazing? Estrada was a freshman…walk-on, having come to UCLA with no youth national club ball and originating from a small high school program.
It was that game, in Estrada’s run of college games, that led me to wanting to speak with Estrada after he was selected by the Seattle Sounders with the 11th round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.
The funny thing is that while Estrada’s on-field talent led to our conversation with the Salinas, California native, after speaking with him I came away much more impressed with the mental focus and sense of purpose for a player who continually seems to just walk-on to opportunities and show he belongs.
Heck, the first round selection (which some people questioned) coolly walked into his first game this year–a friendly against the historic SPL team Celtic–and buried a long-range effort just a minute later, snaking past a Celtic defender and swerving a ball past US National team hopeful Dominic Cervi, into the top left corner pocket.
Estrada speaks in a measured, acute tone and you shortly figure out why.
The young forward feels a deep–nay, an extreme–sense of responsibility to his family– extended to second and third cousins.
Several times during the interview Estrada did one of two things: profusely thanked a friend, coach, fan base or family member for helping get him to where he is today, or interrupted us to reinforce how deeply dedicated he is to the game and doing right by that same group of folks that facilitated his development.
It’s that dedication that Jorge Salcedo, Estrada head’s coach at UCLA, said sets him apart from other player’s with a similar level of talent,
“David’s a real hard-working kid.
One preseason, he trained so hard to be fit and he lost so much weight. In fact, he overtrained coming into preseason and we had to slow him down.
It’s just a testament to how well he wants to do.
A lot of times you wish kids would work a little bit harder. With David, he worked so hard already you didn’t want him to work any harder because it would become detrimental to him.”
And now our conversation with David Estrada, on his upbringing in the barrio of a coastal California town, whom he credits with helping him along the way (…and who we credits with being the best dressed on the Sounders), and why people should stop being surprised by his achievements.
Matthew, TSG: Hi David, how are you? Quickly to start us off. You’re on injured reserve right now with a hamstring injury. How’s the progression back to fitness?
David, Sounders FC: You know, it feels good. I’m taking it day by day; I don’t want to force it. But at the same time, it’s kind of frustrating since this is my first year.
Matthew: Good to hear it’s coming along. So tell me, how’s your rookie campaign been going? You walked on the field and just nailed that first goal. You going to be as prodigious as you were that first year in college?
David: Ha. The first year is going well.
I felt at first I was going to be okay to come in and get to play, but there are multiple things that I need to work on and that I am working on.
I feel very comfortable in training. And I feel like I’m finding my role on this team through that training.
Matthew: How would you qualify that role? We’ve seen you play different positions–out wide or up top this year. Any plan by the coaches? Any positions you prefer?
David: I can play on the right wing. I can play on the left side or up top as well. I feel like I’m interchangeable in my positions.
Obviously, playing with other guys who are interchangeable up top as well works well for my game and makes us a little bit lethal.
Matthew: How’s the team reacted to the big trade of Freddie Ljungberg to Chicago?
David: I feel like when Freddie first came here he did really well for the team, but then the team got to a point where they felt they needed something different.
The coaches noticed that and it came in a movement to youth I guess.
Now we have Sanna (Nyassi) on the right side and the new guy from Uruguay (Alvaro Fernandez) and he’s young too. We’re all young.
Matthew: So does that make the Sounders a more active or faster team, or is it just new blood?