David Estrada nearly missed one of the biggest moments of his soccer life.
The forward from UCLA wasn’t expecting to hear his name until late in Thursday’s Major League Soccer SuperDraft, so he barely got home in time to see the surprising news that Seattle Sounders FC had picked him in the first round with the No. 11 overall pick.
“I had just gotten online when they were about to announce the Seattle Sounders pick, and I did not expect it at all,” Estrada said in a teleconference. “Third round I was going to be happy with. Fourth round I was thinking maybe I should go back to school.”
But instead of third or fourth round, Sounders FC grabbed the versatile forward with their first pick.
“I was more surprised than anything,” he said. “I still can’t believe it right now… I ran outside to my backyard, screamed my lungs out, cried my lungs out, I just couldn’t believe it.”
Estrada, who turns 22 next month, originally went to UCLA as a walk-on, but burst on the soccer scene with 12 goals as a freshman, earning Soccer America’s National Freshman of the Year award. He finished his UCLA career with 22 goals and 14 assists.
“He’s always been one of those guys who has had to prove himself,” Sounders FC technical director Chris Henderson said. “He’s always worked hard and had a strong work ethic, and that was one of the strengths we liked about him. And when it came time to perform in each of the (scouting combine) games, he did that. As both combines went along, he got better every game, and we liked that. We liked that he could get up and down on the wing when we asked him to play there, and up top he was pretty dangerous as well.”
It probably didn’t hurt Estrada that he played at UCLA, the school where Sounders FC coach Sigi Schmid played and later coached.
“I’ve seen David play since he was a freshman at UCLA,” Schmid said. “… His movement off the ball is very good, his fitness level is very good and his technical abilities are very good.”
Seattle was looking for depth on the wings in particular after losing Sebastien Le Toux to Philadelphia in the expansion draft, and both Estrada and second-round pick Mike Seamon fit that bill. Seamon, a 6-1 forward/midfielder from Villanova, is someone Seattle thinks could be a second-round steal.
“He’s one of those players that may surprise some people,” Henderson said.
Sounders FC did not have a third-round pick, and in the fourth round selected Jamel Wallace, a defender/midfielder from San Diego State.
And while Sounders FC certainly hopes to get production from all the rookies it drafted, the team likely won’t get an impact player at the level of Steve Zakuani, last year’s No. 1 overall pick who was a starter and developed into one of the league’s top rookies.
“At the end of the day, if we were a bad team we’d get some good picks, but we were a good team last year and we had good results and when you do that then you don’t have the best of scenarios going into the draft,” Schmid said.
Danny Mwanga, a forward from Oregon State, was the No. 1 overall pick taken by the expansion Philadelphia Union.
The SuperDraft went on Thursday despite the fact that the 2010 season could be in jeopardy. The league’s five-year labor contract expires on Jan. 31, and if the league and the players’ union can’t come up with an agreement by then, a lockout is possible.