CASA GRANDE, Ariz. – For the second straight year the Seattle Sounders have participated in a friendly match at the Grande Sports Academy, and a familiar face was among the Rave Green.
Eriq Zavaleta, who spent a portion of his youth career at the Grande Sports Academy was one of four players who have ties to the GSA to make his professional debut in 2013. Zavaleta was selected with the 10th overall pick in the 2013 MLS draft by the Sounders and a little over two months later he made his professional debut against the San Jose Earthquakes.
GSA had an opportunity to speak to Eriq about his life at the GSA after a recent Sounders 2-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps.
Photo gallery of Eriq playing in Sounders vs. Whitecaps match after Q & A.
Grande: Eriq it’s good to have you back at the Grande Sports Academy, how does it feel?
Zavaleta: “It’s interesting. It’s a different experience coming back with a professional team versus an academy kid who was watching these professional teams and aspiring to be them. But at the same time it’s a cool experience it brings back memories. In the short time I was here I learned a lot and made some good relationships.”
G: As an Academy player at the GSA you had the opportunity to watch the professionals train. Did that help you in any way?
Z: “It gives you something to aspire to. You see the level first hand and it’s not every day you watch the professionals practice. You watch games a lot, but it’s a lot different being on the field level and seeing how they work out and how they are in the gym. You see the everyday life of these guys and you understand that it takes a lot to be a pro and it definitely helps.”
G: The GSA is one on the few full time residential Academies in the U.S. How did being immersed in this environment help you?
Z: “First and foremost this facility is incredible. You have everything you need here from good fields, to a great weight room, to ice tubs and everything else you could possibly need. It helps you learn how to become a pro because you have the facilities that are necessary to become a good pro. Greg (Vanney) was a great leader for us and I learned a lot from him. We had good talent on the team and the level was great.”
G: Looking back on your rookie season, what were your thoughts on how you performed for the Sounders and San Antonio Scorpions while on loan?
Z: “It was a learning experience and I feel like I’ve taken it in stride. This year is not so much about can I adjust can I learn. It’s now how can I contribute. I didn’t contribute and help the team as much as I would have liked last year. I felt like I wanted to contribute more and I felt like I could, but now coming in after a season in I’ve learned the ropes and I know what it takes and I’m ready to help this team.”
G: If you could go back to and give yourself advice while you were here at the Academy, what would you say?
Z: “I think coming here is one step in learning on how to be a pro and learning how to work hard. But until you get to the professional level you really don’t know how to work had and that was something for me to learn. A lot of these Academy kids have talent. You cannot make it on talent alone, especially in the professional level. If you can learn and watch these how these guys treat this job like it’s a job and understand that not every day is for taken granted, but then use the talent you have as well. That is how you are going to be successful.
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