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Sounders' Estrada handling success well

  • Seattle's David Estrada (center) on the sideline during a 2011 game against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Seattle's David Estrada (center) on the sideline during a 2011 game against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

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By John Boyle
Herald Writer
  • Seattle's David Estrada (center) on the sideline during a 2011 game against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

    Jennifer Buchanan / The Herald

    Seattle's David Estrada (center) on the sideline during a 2011 game against the Vancouver Whitecaps.

SEATTLE -- Surrounded by a small media contingent following Thursday's practice, David Estrada was asked if he had noticed any change in his life since he went from seldom-used Seattle Sounders backup to star forward on a scoring binge.
"Well as we speak, there are two cameras on my face, so yeah, I've noticed it," Estrada said almost sheepishly.
Touche, David.
Indeed, Estrada's world has changed quite a bit over the past month. Before the start of this season, he was known only to die-hard soccer fans, and even to them Estrada was someone who played only a small role in Seattle's past two seasons. That all started to change earlier this month, however.
An impressive preseason, as well as an injury to newly acquired forward Eddie Johnson, allowed Estrada to climb the depth chart and he ended up starting and scoring in Seattle's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal home game against Santos. Less than two weeks later, Estrada scored all three goals in his team's 3-1 season-opening win over Toronto, earning MLS Player of the Week honors.
Last weekend, Estrada added another goal in a win over Houston, and the once-anonymous player is now the league leader in goals.
"It's funny," Estrada said of his sudden fame. "I've been here for two years and nobody recognized me, and after my hat trick there's been like four instances of people coming up to me and asking me if I'm the guy who plays for the Sounders."
One Sounders fan on Facebook even modified a picture of Barcelona star Lionel Messi, putting Estrada's face on a picture of Messi that was used as a spoof of the Dos Equis "The Most Interesting Man in the World" commercials. That's right, Estrada now has fans comparing him to the player widely regarded as one of the best to ever play the game.
"It's ridiculous," Estrada said.
So should he be compared to Messi?
"No chance, no chance," he said. "It's funny to me, and I'm enjoying it."
What's more important is that, while enjoying his newfound success, Estrada is also handling it well. His worth ethic was one of the biggest reasons he earned a bigger role on the team this season, and he knows that can't change just because he is suddenly getting radio and TV interview requests every week.
"I think he's handled it fairly well," Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. "His humility is genuine. ... Just keeping is feet grounded."
Late in the season opener, Schmid subbed Estrada out of the game so he could get an ovation from the crowd, but it never occurred to the forward that that was the reason for his early exit.
"I said, 'Do you know why I subbed you?'" Schmid recalled. "He goes, 'Well, I thought because I had the yellow card.' And I said 'No, I wanted you to hear the crowd because you scored a hat trick.' ... His thought process isn't at that point. And as long as he stays humble and he continues to put in the effort and the work rate, he'll get rewarded."
And Estrada doesn't think he'll have any trouble staying grounded, even if the goals and the attention keep coming his way.
"There's a long season ahead of us, so I'm staying grounded, just doing what I did since the first day of preseason, just work hard," he said. "I haven't changed one thing."
What could be Estrada's next challenge is keeping his starting job once Johnson gets back from the hip injury that kept him out of the first two games. Johnson trained fully the past two days, but Schmid indicated that he probably won't play this weekend.
Eventually, however, Johnson will be healthy, and Schmid will have a tough decision on his hands. Estrada is playing too well to keep off the field, but Johnson is a player with an impressive resume, and someone Seattle made a big trade to acquire. And Fredy Montero, the team's leading scorer over the past three years, certainly isn't going anywhere.
Whatever happens, Estrada is prepared to take it in stride, just as he has his newfound fame.
"It's a long season, and yeah, anybody's name can be called up maybe this week or maybe next week," Estrada said. "... It is going to come to a point where a good player has to sit out, and that's the coach's decision. He's the one who is in that spot for a reason.
Herald Writer John Boyle:
Story tags » Sounders FC

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