By Don Ruiz The News Tribune
The Sounders FC front office knew it liked Eriq Zavaleta of Indiana — enough to move up six spots in the Major League Soccer SuperDraft to take him.
But now that the Sounders have him, they’re not sure what to do with him.
Zavaleta went into the Thursday draft known mostly as a goal-scoring forward who also could play centerback. He said he’s willing to play either spot in Seattle.
The Sounders say they haven’t decided on his role, although coach Sigi Schmid sounded intrigued about what Zavaleta, the 10th overall pick, might accomplish on the back line.
“At the end of the day, maybe where he’s going to be able to achieve the maximum is as a defender,” Schmid said. “But he certainly has played the last years as an attacking player, and he scored (28) goals in those two years, which is not bad. … We’ll talk as training goes on and figure it out and try and do what’s best for him and his future.”
Zavaleta (pronounced zah-va-let-uh) ranked third in the NCAA with 18 goals last season, was named Big 10 Offensive Player of the Year and assisted on the winning goal in the Hoosiers’ national championship final.
He was rated fourth overall on Seattle’s draft board, Schmid said. When Zavaleta slipped into the middle of the first round, Seattle made its move, sending its No. 16 pick plus allocation money to Toronto FC for the No. 10 pick.
“Trading up into the top five or six picks was too costly,” Schmid said. “But then when the eighth pick was made and he still hadn’t been picked, we started looking around and saying, ‘Hey, maybe there’s a trade to be made here, maybe we don’t have to give up a ton to be able to move up those six spots,’ which we were able to do. And to be able to get Eriq then was definitely a nice surprise for us.”
Zavaleta, who was born in Arizona and lives in Indiana, admitted he doesn’t know much about Seattle. But he said he is familiar with the Sounders and their fan base, and he’s happy about the way things worked out.
“This is a perfect place for me,” he said. “Going one or going 10 doesn’t matter because I know I’ve got to prove myself on the field. You don’t make yourself on draft day, you make yourself on the field, and I’m ready to go prove myself.”
With their second-round pick — 35th overall — the Sounders selected Dylan Remick of Brown, who caught their eye in the Las Vegas combine.
“We had him rated as the best left back in the combine,” Schmid said. “He was very solid — not the kind of player that is flashy and is going to knock your socks off, but a player that just takes care of his job. His athleticism, I think, was a plus because not only can he play on the outside, but he can also play inside if need be. He can certainly get up and down the line.”
The SuperDraft began with the New England Revolution selecting Andrew Farrell, a defender from Louisville.
Cascadia rival Vancouver had a pair of top-five picks and used them on Kekuta Manneh, a forward from the Austin Aztex, and Erik Hurtado, a forward from Santa Clara. The Portland Timbers had no first-round pick, but used the 34th overall selection on defender Dylan Tucker-Gangnes from the University of Washington.
Other Pac-12 selections were Emery Welshman of Oregon State to Toronto with the 16th pick, Fernando Monge of UCLA to Montreal with the 18 pick, and Ryan Hollingshead of UCLA to Dallas with the 20th pick, Monge played locally with Sounders U-23.
Sounders FC has five more picks in the MLS supplemental draft Tuesday. Preseason camp opens Monday.
For complete results from the MLS SuperDraft, see page D5.