They were two players that came into the season with differing expectations, but Eriq Zavaleta and Dylan Remick both ended up using the 2013 season as an opportunity to learn the ins and outs of the professional game from some veterans with Sounders FC. Both players have their sights set on continuing to climb the depth chart in 2014 armed with the lessons picked up along the way in their rookie seasons.
“They are definitely guys that we should continue to put time in developing,” said Sounders FC Sporting Director Chris Henderson. “Both of them are smart kids and open-minded and coachable and they put in the work every single day.”
Seattle selected Zavaleta 10th overall in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft after the sophomore forward helped Indiana University to a national championship. Remick would follow in the second round, 35th overall, out of Brown University. With those different draft positions came differing aspirations for the season.
Zavaleta hoped to contribute right away and came to an early acceptance that he would need to use the year as a learning experience playing behind players like Eddie Johnson, Obafemi Martins, Clint Dempsey and Lamar Neagle.
“It was the first time in my life that I was in a situation that I wasn’t at the top of the depth chart. I had to work my way up and I didn’t get as much playing time, but I took it as an opportunity to learn from the best in the league,” said Zavelta. “When you have players like that on your team, you need to recognize you can learn something. It was about finding myself and how I can force my way onto the field by doing something that I can do special like all these guys can do something special.”
Meanwhile, Remick eyed an extension on his career by making the roster and having the chance to pick up the tricks of the trade from Leo Gonzalez and Marc Burch, two players who man the left back position with different approaches.
“Both of them have their own unique styles, so they were able to pass along little tricks of the trade that I’ve learned and I can infuse into my own style,” Remick said. “Burch helped with my crossing and ability to hit short, middle and long passes with my left foot. Leo taught me a lot about defending and 1-v-1 defending especially.”
Zavaleta made his debut in the third game of the season and while he played just six minutes in a fruitless 1-0 loss to the San Jose Earthquakes. He wound up making five substitute appearances on the year and 31 minutes, and also saw playing time in loan spells with the San Antonio Scorpions.
Remick made one late-season appearance in league play, getting 25 minutes of action in a 5-1 loss to the Colorado Rapids on October 5. He also played 79 minutes in a 1-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.
Both were prominent figures in the MLS Reserve League this year, though. Zavaleta led the reserves with four goals, starting in 11 of the 12 Reserve League matches while Remick started all 12 , led the team in minutes with 971 (Zavaleta was second with 917) while tallying one assist.
Through those experiences, both players were able to measure their improvement throughout the year and keep their confidence up.
Now both are using their offseasons to continue that growth.
Remick is now behind just Gonzalez in the depth chart and hopes to show enough improvement to earn playing time in his second MLS season.
“I want to play out on the field, just like every competitive soccer player at this level, so I want to keep improving and keep impressing the coaches to the point that they feel strongly about putting me out on the field and getting some good results,” Remick said.
Zavaleta spent time training with renowned Indianapolis trainer Mike Robertson to improve his speed and explosion.
“It’s all about getting better at things that I’m good at and making them great,” Zavaleta said. “Though last year was a learning year for me, I’m ready to step up and hopefully help this team this year.”
He has also spent time working with young aspiring players in the area through camps put on by his father’s Indiana Soccer Academy. There he finished one camp with 9-16 year-old players on Sunday and will start another on Thursday, January 2. (For more information, visit www.indianasocceracademy.com)
His father, Carlos Zavaleta, has dedicated his life to bettering soccer in the Indianapolis/Westfield area and the Sounders forward has joined with DC United’s Perry Kitchen to show kids that hard work pays off and goals are obtainable.
Through all hard work and studying of the game, both Zavaleta and Remick will look to push even further towards their goals in 2014.