In March 2009, David Estrada, a junior at UCLA, sat down to watch the Seattle Sounders’ inaugural match on ESPN. He was in awe of the environment and atmosphere, but that paled in comparison to the first time he entered CenturyLink Field as a player.
“You can see it on TV, but you don’t really know how it is until you’re in the stadium,” Estrada told Steve Zakuani the latest episode of “Winging it with Zakuani.” “You try to describe it, but it’s a feeling you can’t replicate.”
After a four-year career at UCLA, Estrada was selected by the Sounders in the first round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft. Within a year, the forward went from watching the expansion club on TV to being part of the squad.
“I never expected it in a million years,” Estrada said. “It was like a dream come true.”
Estrada went on to appear in 41 MLS matches for the Rave Green, with his highlight coming in a stunning hat trick against Toronto FC in 2012. After a trade to D.C. United in 2014, Estrada spent time in the USL with Sacramento Republic FC and Orange County before spending the past two years with the Charlotte Independence.
Happy St. Hat Trick's Day! Relive David Estrada's three-goal performance six years ago to the day. ☘ pic.twitter.com/KAVBe57Bnh— Seattle Sounders FC (@SoundersFC) March 17, 2018
This offseason, though, Estrada was in a pickle. He wanted to keep playing, but no opportunities popped up. At age 30, he understood the challenge of finding a place in a league that emphasizes young, emerging talent.
In desperation, he reached out to the guy he met at the draft combine nearly a decade earlier: Brian Schmetzer.
Estrada asked his former coach if he could train with the club, and Schmetzer connected him to S2 Head Coach John Hutchinson. Soon after, Estrada noticed a job opening on the team’s website as an academy coach with the U-15 side.
That would be the ideal situation, Estrada thought.
By March, Estrada signed a contract as a player for S2, while also serving as a coach in the academy. It’s been the best of both worlds.
Estrada playing in S2’s season opener against Portland Timbers 2 | Lindsey Wasson
“To be able to come back to the team that gave me first opportunity, and to get involved with the community, I can’t explain it,” Estrada said. “It’s a beautiful thing.”
As a veteran who once entered the league as a young talent, he can connect with the Academy and S2 players on a unique, personal level.
“I think sometimes, especially in the first years, you think it’s all about you,” Estrada said. “Now I have to set an example. It’s not about me, it’s about the club. It’s about helping these kids grow.”
Estrada’s selfless demeanor undoubtedly sets a precedent off the pitch, but he’s been impactful as a player, too. Through the club’s first three matches, Estrada leads the club with two goals.
While he doesn’t know how long he will play or if coaching is in his long-term plans, Estrada is confident in his current leadership role with the club. He is also passionate about the non-profit sector and promoting health.
“For me, I always try to see the bigger scope,” he said. “All it takes is one person who cares [to make an impact].” Estrada said. “How I want to incorporate things remains to be seen, but I just want to do good things and surround myself with good people.”
The full interview can be found HERE.