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March 25, 2013 at 3:34 PM

A stop and chat with rookie Eriq Zavaleta following his debut Saturday

zavaleta mug 2013Reporters got a chance to catch up with Sounders FC rookie Eriq Zavaleta after his debut in the final minutes of Saturday’s loss to San Jose. Something to keep in mind, he trained early in preseason as a center back and more recently has moved back to forward (a position he starred at in college at Indiana).

Here is a transcript:

*     *     *

(Is Indiana the only of the Sounders’ alma maters still in the NCAA tournament?) “That’s right. As expected. No one’s surprised.”

(Any bragging yet?) “I think the guys know it. Once the brackets are all set and done, and my bracket wins because Indiana wins the final, then I’ll start bragging.”

(Were you nervous in the last game?) “Yeah. We got back from the flight and they were losing with like 10 minutes to go. I probably hit 100 on the freeway trying to get home to make sure I’d be back for the end of the game.”

(How did your debut go?) “It was good. It was a tough game to go into with the circumstances and tough to leave the game with your head up, even though it’s your debut, because of losing the game. It’s always good to get the first one out of the way there. It’s tough — especially with the seven minutes I got. I tried to run around and at least somewhat make an impact. I feel like it’s something to build on, for sure.”

(Is it still tough moving around from defender to forward?) “Yeah, certainly not making it easier to bounce around, but I feel like I’ve kind of found a home up front the last couple of weeks or last month or so. I’m developing and learning from some of the best players in the league here. It’s something that will only help me along the road.”

(Do forward instincts come back quicker having played there in college?) “I think so. When I came here, my comfortable position was forward, but I really wanted to take in the learning of center back, because I felt it’s a position that I could definitely develop into in my career. With the depth we have in that position, it kind of led me to push up front a little bit. Like I said, I’m learning — in both positions really — but instincts come back. I scored a lot of goals in college and I’m hoping those goal-scoring instincts come back and can be taken to the next level.”

(Do you feel this is more of a permanent move?) “That’s more of a question for Sigi. I’m not exactly sure. [Ed note: Schmid said there might still be some going back and forth.] We’ve had some conversations about it, but I feel like they’re trying to get me the best opportunity to be on the field. At the end of the day, that’s what I want to do — I want to get on the field and help the team in whatever position that may be. Right now, it’s at forward, so that’s where I’ll be until it changes.”

(What are you seeing different in MLS defenders compared to college?) “Well, I mean other than the obvious physicality — these guys are bigger, faster, stronger — but at the same time, they’re smarter. I got away with some of the abilities like speed and strength that maybe I didn’t have in the college game because I was smart enough to make movements and to get in good spots to score some goals.  Guys in this league have seen players like me day in and day out, and they understand kind of the movements you’re going to make. It’s a cat and mouse game. You’ve got to do what you think the defender might not, and they’re good at those kinds of things, so you have to mix it up more and be more creative. Those are things I’m kind of learning from guys like Eddie and others.”

(Do you feel like moving around has hurt your development or are you comfortable with the progress you’re making as a player?) “I think it’s easy to think that that’s a possibility, but at the same time, at the other side of the stick, there’s a lot of things you can learn from playing both positions. You learn a lot about what’s uncomfortable to do as a center back for a forward to do to you and vice versa. Some of those things I’ve taken and have really helped me excel at each position. I feel like you never really know, because I have bounced back and forth, but I think I’m in the league now and I’ll find a home somewhere eventually for permanent. For now, I’m just trying to get on the field and help this team win.”


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