When a professional athlete is injured and is forced to miss over three months, rarely are they thankful for the timing of the injury. That is how David Estrada views the broken foot that kept him on the shelf since his last appearance on June 5.
Estrada suffered the injury in a training session in early June, but he is thankful that it didn’t happen in preseason. If that was the case, he says, he never would have had the opportunity to build the confidence that he did in being Seattle’s top scorer with five goals through his first 13 appearances.
“I’m just glad that it didn’t happen before I did all that stuff,” said Estrada, who started off the season with a hat trick against Toronto FC. “Luckily I was able to get some experience playing and I think that helped me mature and know that I can contribute to the team anytime I’m on the field.”
Estrada can feel that optimism now.
On Sunday, he played for the first time since suffering the foot fracture, going 45 minutes in a 3-2 reserve game loss to the Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field. Entering the game with the Sounders trailing 3-0 at halftime, Estrada helped the Sounders build more on the offensive side and they were eventually able to shrink that first-half deficit with goals from Sounders FC Academy standouts Jordan Morris and Isidro Prado-Huerta.
“It was good. It was just nice to get touches on the ball,” Estrada said. “I know as a forward, your job is to score goals, but for me, it was just getting touches and hopefully having a positive impact on the team.”
For Estrada, who was seeing his most extensive time since being selected 11th overall in the first round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, it was just one step toward getting back into a forward rotation that now features two top-six scorers in MLS in Eddie Johnson and Fredy Montero. Estrada played just three games in each of his first two MLS seasons, but burst onto the scene this year when Johnson suffered some short-term injuries in preseason.
He earned the start as the Sounders took on Santos Laguna in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, scoring the first goal against the eventual tournament runners up in a 2-1 Seattle win at CenturyLink Field.
His return would give head coach Sigi Schmid added options on the bench to a core that also includes Sammy Ochoa at forward.
“He adds that element of running hard, harassing the defense and stretching the defense that isn’t always there when he’s not playing,” Schmid said. “Right now, Ochoa’s been playing well also. It’s always going to be competition and he knows that.”
As Estrada has eased toward the end of his rehab for his broken foot, he’s gotten a boost from his alma mater at UCLA. There, the 11th-ranked Bruins have gotten two goals in five substitute appearances from his younger brother Max Estrada.
“That definitely brightened up my situation, looking forward to his games,” Seattle’s Estrada said. “I’m just really happy for the Bruins that they’re doing really well, too.”