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June 24, 2013 at 1:44 PM

Sounders FC’s Eriq Zavaleta returns from loan with San Antonio, could be going back

zavaleta mug 2013Sounders FC rookie Eriq Zavaleta was back in training with the team Monday after returning from his two-week loan with San Antonio of the second-division North American Soccer League.

Zavaleta, 20, started two games at forward for the Scorpions, though coach Sigi Schmid said after practice that there might be more to come:

“He might be going back,” Schmid said. “There are still some more games that he can pick up there. His loan stint is not over at this point. For him to get 90 minutes is important. He played two (games) and he’s got the chance to play two or three more, so we want to try and see if we can get him those two or three more games.”

Here is what Zavaleta, Seattle’s first-round pick in this year’s MLS SuperDraft, had to say about the experience:

*     *     *

(How would you judge your time on loan with San Antonio?) “It was positive. I felt like I got something out of it, especially in the two games. I went there to get fitness and get some game experience. I came back now with a little more game experience, and I’m feeling good.”

(What can you say about the level of play there?) “It’s different. It’s faster here. … There is a step from that league to here — that’s why this is the best league in the country here — but don’t get me wrong, some of those guys can play and you get something out of it.”

(When the idea of a loan comes up are you unsure about it or do you embrace it? What are the emotions?) “Right away you think to yourself you’re not in the plans right now, to be playing, and that’s no fun, of course. But I went there to try to better myself to be a part of helping this team. Sigi saw an opportunity for me to get some minutes. You have to take it as a positive. What you put into it is what you take out of it, and I think I put as much effort as I could into it. Therefore it was successful.”

(From a broader perspective, do you think have a USL PRO affiliate nearby would be helpful in that regard and also not being so far away?) “Yeah, absolutely. I feel like part of the thing that’s no fun … is you’ve got to drop everything you’ve just set up for the past three, four months and put it all aside and say, ‘I’m going to go live in a hotel for the next two weeks’ or whatever. And you’re in an environment you have to get used to. So it’d be great to have one in our backyard, of course, but those things are difficult to set up. Certainly if you can set up, it’d be something that would be successful and help players like me who need to get game minutes on the weekend but can still train here with the first team and get something out of it during the week.”

(What was it like having different coaching staff and philosophy?) “It’s different. They don’t press. They just sit in because it’s 100 degree there. Coming here, I feel like I can run forever compared to playing in 100 degrees there. It’s a lot different. It’s good to get a different experience of playing forward for a different team and having to play a different role and a more prominent role, really, getting more touches on the ball. But I feel like it was a good experience.”

(Ed note: The swirling winds at Starfire ruined the audio of Zavaleta’s thoughts on San Antonio as a soccer city, particularly as one sometimes linked with MLS expansion. He had positive things to say about the soccer support there and praised the fans for filling the stands.)

(Did you see the Alamo?) “I didn’t. I spent a lot of time on the River Walk watching the NBA Finals, but I didn’t see the Alamo.”

(What was it like being there for the NBA Finals?) “It was wild. It was a lot of fun. I went to the River Walk when the Finals were in San Antonio and when they were in Miami. It was so much crazier when they were in Miami because everyone that actually went to the game was on the River Walk. But it was a lot of fun. I love the NBA, and the NBA Finals are obviously a great time. It was cool to be a part of it.”

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