Last year Eriq Zavaleta saw most of his action in the MLS Reserve League and, when loaned out to the San Antonio Scorpions, he continued to develop as a forward. Now in his second year he is again on loan, joining Chivas USA as a defender. The team’s first-ever intraleague loan means that he was not eligible to play against Sounders FC last Saturday. Zaveleta instead took the pitch in Reserve League action Sunday.
When injuries forced Bobby Burling, Andrew Jean-Baptiste and Tony Lochhead out of service, Zavaleta’s conversion to center back under Head Coach Wilmer Cabrera earned a quick start. Just six games into the season Zavaleta already has four starts at center back alongside former USA Captain Carlos Bocanegra.
One of the reasons that the former college forward is with Chivas USA is to learn the new position.
“That’s something we talked to Eriq about before he went on loan,” Sounders FC Coach Sigi Shmid told the media prior to last week’s game. “I said, ‘Do you realize that this means they’re going to change you into a defender and we’ll look at you as a defender when this loan period is up and as you come back?’ He said that’s what he wanted to try to do.”
His first start in the role was shaky. Since then he’s settled into the position a bit more. He uses the long ball less often than other players along the Chivas USA backline, generally looking for a short pass. Zavaleta is also learning better positioning. Unlike last year as a forward he is not winning the aerial duels, though that should improve over time.
As the Goats are returning to health it will be interesting to see if the Generation adidas player continues to get playing time as a starting center back.
The former first-round pick is now playing as a midfielder/forward with the Eric Wynalda led Atlanta Silverbacks. After two weeks with the NASL team he’s started in the midfield of a 4-5-1 twice. His first match was against last year’s champions, the New York Cosmos. The Cosmos put four goals past Atlanta in the match that featured offense coming from the New York defense.
Atlanta then hosted the San Antonio Scorpions. The Silverbacks gave up two goals while scoring one. Estrada did not feature in the goal.
The Silverbacks head to Tampa’s Al Lang Stadium to face the Rowdies on Saturday at 4:30 p.m. PT. Estrada will try to exact some revenge for last year’s Open Cup loss.
First-year pro Ockford started the official season with the New York Cosmos on the bench but did not enter play in either match. During the exhibition season the versatile defender scored twice while on a preseason tour in U.A.E. The attacking defense deployed by coach Giovanni Savarese earned two defenders NASL Team of the Week recognition in week one of the young NASL season.
This will make playing time hard for the center/right back to earn, but he will be learning alongside former MLS players like Hunter Freeman and Carlos Mendes.
New York hosts San Antonio at 4 PM on Saturday.
|Player||Team||League||Starts||Subs||In 18 DNP||Minutes||Goals||Assists|
|Eriq Zavaleta||Chivas USA||MLS||4||0||1||360||0||0|
|David Estrada||Atlanta Silverbacks||NASL||2||0||0||180||0||0|
|Jimmy Ockford||New York Cosmos||NASL||0||0||2||0||0||0|