INDIANAPOLIS – As a kid, Eriq Zavaleta dreamed of winning a National Championship with Indiana University and playing professional soccer. Over the course of the last 40 days, he accomplished both of those goals, winning the NCAA title on December 9 for the Hoosiers then the forward was drafted No. 10 overall by the Sounders FC in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft.
With the draft taking place just 35 minutes away from his hometown of Westfield, Indiana, at the Indiana Convention Center, it made the excitement that much sweeter for the 20-year-old forward.
“I always wanted to be a part of that and that was a big reason why I went to that school,” he said. “Being a professional soccer player was also a dream – it’s a part of my family and hopefully will be for many years. I’m humbled to be part of this organization.”
Zavaleta’s father, Carlos, played at UCLA in 1977, Sigi Schmid’s first year as an assistant coach there. He was also a national team player for El Salvador and played professionally in the US. Additionally, Zavaleta’s uncle is former MLS and US National Team defender Greg Vanney.
The Sounders traded up in the draft order to acquire Zavaleta, sending the 16th overall pick and allocation money to Toronto FC for the tenth overall pick, adding the 2012 BIG-10 Offensive Player of the Year.
He tallied 28 goals and nine assists in 46 matches at Indiana, leaving after his sophomore season to sign a Generation adidas contract to play in Major League Soccer.
Leaving school early was a difficult decision for Zavaleta and one that he didn’t take lightly.
“I think it was the best thing for my development. The college game helped me so much, but it was time for me to move on to a new challenge,” he said. “Winning a national championship made things easier because that was such a big reason why I wanted to be there. It’s hard to leave friends and family behind, but I’m sure they’re all happy for me.”
After being selected, he beamed about wearing the Rave Green and playing in front of huge crowds at CenturyLink Field. After watching the Sounders, as well as other MLS matches on television, he was thrilled to come to a club that had such a strong national presence and one that plays an exciting style.
“I really couldn’t have envisioned it to go any better. This is the most ideal situation I could have,” he said. “I thought that this dream couldn’t get any better and it has.”
Zavaleta will join the Sounders as they start training camp on Monday at Starfire.