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September 19, 2012 at 1:07 PM

David Estrada: “I had a good end to my year (in 2011) and I’m just trying to finish off strong again.”

estrada three.jpgPhoto credit: Dean Rutz, The Seattle Times

David Estrada scored three goals in Sounders FC’s season-opening win against Toronto FC (pictured above).

Interestingly, besides Fredy Montero and Eddie Johnson, no Sounder has matched that production in 28 MLS games. That’s right, no one on the team besides those three has scored more than twice. So, yes, it will be nice to have Estrada — the team’s third-leading scorer with five goals — back in the mix after missing more than three months with a broken left foot.

The initial hope was a 8-12 month week recovery.

“It took a little longer than we had hoped,” said coach Sigi Schmid. “The fracture was, I guess, a little more severe than the last one (Estrada suffered in college) and there was also another type of stress element that was at work there. That’s why it took him a little bit longer.”

Estrada played his first minutes since the injury on Sunday. He featured in the second half of a reserve game in Portland as the Sounders nearly completed a three-goal comeback but ultimately suffered a 3-2 loss.

“It was just nice to get touches on the ball,” Estrada said. “I know as a forward your job is to score goals, but for me it was just getting touches and hopefully having a positive impact on the team.”

Estrada said he felt good playing 45 minutes but might not be ready yet for starter’s minutes. But as a sub?

“For that I know I’m ready,” he said.

The 2012 season has been a breakout year for Estrada, even with the injury. He was rarely used in his first two seasons but found a spark at the end of last year. That momentum carried into preseason, when he flourished after a move to forward to provide depth after O’Brian White was ruled out for the year, Mike Fucito was traded and the Sounders had some injury issues up front. He scored against Santos Laguna in a CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal and kept that going into the MLS season.

After such a start, some might have considered the timing of the injury as unlucky. Estrada doesn’t view it that way.

If anything, he’s glad he was able to have some success before the injury. Otherwise he feared his future with the team might have been in jeopardy.

“Luckily, I was able to get some experience playing, and I think that helped me mature and know that I can contribute to the team anytime I’m on the field,” Estrada said.

And does this setback change how he views this season?

“In every year I think every player goes through his ups and downs, and that was definitely a down for me,” Estrada said. “I started off really high and I’m just looking forward to build off of that. … I had a good end to my year (in 2011) and I’m just trying to finish off strong again.”

In attempts to get back to his full form, Estrada is already looking forward to Sunday’s reserve game vs. San Jose. Schmid was asked Monday how Estrada still fits into what is a new-look team since the injury.

“He adds an element — that element of running hard and harassing the defense, stretching the defense, so that always gives us an element that isn’t always there,” the coach said.

Depth has filled out in the attack, though, and Sammy Ochoa has also emerged as a reliable option up front for the Sounders before Montero and Johnson.

“It’s always going to be competition, and (Estrada) knows that,” Schmid said.

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