In Monday’s preseason training game against the Vancouver Whitecaps, David Estrada was an absolute buzz saw.
The third-year Sounder from UCLA had been all over the field in previous weeks because he had been playing all over the field. Primarily though, he’d been used on the right side of the field, both in defense and in the midfield, as well as the middle of the midfield.
On Monday, head coach Sigi Schmid put Estrada in as a forward and he made the move pay off for Schmid, providing a dynamic force on the front line and setting up the tying goal from Servando Carrasco during his 45 minutes against Vancouver’s second unit.
“One thing I’ve always tried to do is just work my butt off. Wherever they put me, I’m going to outrun whoever is in front of me,” said Estrada, 24. “Playing up top, you’re trying to outrun the center backs and that’s one thing I think I can do.”
As a right back, Estrada struggled to get on the field. While he played in all ten reserve league matches last year, he was only able to see the field in five matches throughout the season, starting in one Champions League match, one Open Cup match and one MLS match, while coming on as a sub in two other league tilts.
In recent weeks, though, Schmid moved him to forward, where he hopes Estrada can regain the form of his UCLA days when he scored 22 goals and added 14 assists in four years to help draw the eyes of the Sounders FC, who chose him 11th overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.
Driven partly by need because of the absences of forward O’Brian White (blood clots) and Steve Zakuani (leg fracture) and partly by a desire to see Estrada succeed, Schmid made the move to get a look at Estrada as a forward option.
“Understanding that O’Brian White was still a long ways away and Zakuani is a ways away, we really felt that we needed one more forward,” Schmid said. “He has the work-rate and he has enough speed to stretch an opponent’s defense, and that’s something that we always need with that other forward.”
Estrada has had no problems moving back to the forward position, thriving in the role in the game on Monday, but also in the training sessions where he has been asked to fill that role.
“When you’re out on the wings and playing right back, there’s a lot of defending and there’s a lot of thinking,” he said. “At forward, it’s a lot easier because you can just drop off the ball and make runs off the ball. I think that’s something that I can do better than play defensively, 1v1.”
Estrada and the Sounders will head to Bradenton, Florida, on Saturday to begin the third phase of training camp, playing four games in Florida before jumping to Cancun, Mexico, for a match against Atlante. Finally, they will face Jaguares de Chiapas on February 29 in the club’s annual Community Shield match.