David Estrada celebrates his third goal with Fredy Montero. (Photo by Jane Gershovich/JaneG. Photography)
There are games in which a player enters a fanbase's collective consciousness. For David Estrada, that was probably this year's CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal when he scored the opening goal. What happened on Saturday, though, is something entirely different. David Estrada, the 24-year-old who was largely seen as a first-round SuperDraft bust as recently as a month ago, scored a hat trick to lead the Seattle Sounders to a 3-1 victory over Toronto FC in front of a MLS opener crowd of 38,709.
Make no mistake about it, the one player every person who watched this game will be talking about is Estrada. World, meet David. David, meet the world.
Even if Estrada hadn't finished off his hat trick -- just the third in Sounders history -- he'd be someone you'll have a very easy time liking.
During his post-game talk with the media, Estrada fought hard to hold back tears. Whether he was talking about the grandfather who he never met -- but who he said had a profound effect on his life -- or about the faith people like coach Sigi Schmid placed in him after he struggled to find his game as a pro, Estrada betrayed a shockingly human side. Luckily, Mauro Rosales was there to shove a shoe in his face, just before it looked like he might lose it.
"It's been a long time coming," Estrada said, as emotion started to build. "I'm thankful for these guys around me. Mauro Rosales, Fredy Montero -- I'm always putting myself down -- but he's always there to pick me up ... It's been a long time coming."
The good news is that there's about zero chance that Estrada is going to pull off the gas now. He has gotten here by working harder than any other player; by running when everyone else is jogging and by chasing balls others would give up on.
On the first and third goals, especially, Estrada showcased those skills perfectly. The first goal came after he laid off a pass to Alvaro Fernandez, got it back and then won a scrum in front of the goal. He out fought goalkeeper Milos Kocic and two defenders to control the ball and then pound it into the back of the net.
His third goal was a similar play, except more beautifully executed. Again, he played a give-and-go with Fernandez, only this time he one-timed it past Kocic. It maybe goes without saying that Schmid hopes that some of that work-ethic will rub off on Estrada's teammates.
"Well, I think a lot of people have to look at that [Estrada’s performance] and say, ‘Hey, that’s what work does for you,’" Schmid said. "You need 11 guys. There were a lot of other guys that did work today too."
Schmid pointed out that he thought Osvaldo Alonso and Brad Evans had particularly good games in the central midfield. You could have said the same thing about Marc Burch and Patrick Ianni, both of whom received surprise starts on defense. Really, just about everyone had a good game in this one.
But none of them were better than Estrada, who was so good that he's now the top candidate to become the Sounders' next cult hero ... even if he's not quite ready for it.
"No, I don’t think so," Estrada said when asked about his preparedness to be a cult leader. "I am just happy that we were able to win. We got the three points and that is the most important thing."