No one would blame David Estrada taking a day or two to feel sorry for himself. After two years of barely seeing the field, the soft-spoken 24-year-old was enjoying a breakout season with the Seattle Sounders. He was tied for team lead with six all-competition goals, had proven versatile enough to start 12 MLS games at three different positions and was the only player on the team to appear in all 17 games this season.
But Estrada didn't get to where he is by allowing self-pity to creep into his ethos.
Shortly after undergoing X-Rays that revealed a broken fifth metatarsal in his left foot, Estrada was spotted by several teammates lifting weights in the Seattle Sounders training facility. It's exactly the kind of thing you'd expect from someone just about everyone on the team agrees is one of the hardest working players in the entire league.
"We’re confident we’ll have him back in a couple months," Sounders midfielder Brad Evans said. "He’s not someone that is going to lose his fitness. He’ll work extremely hard."
On a personal level, just about anyone who has ever met Estrada surely feels for the guy. Whenever he was given the chance, he spoke highly of any number of players threatening to steal minutes from him. On a team full of big personalities that surely clash at times, Estrada is one of the guys who everyone seems to get along with. As much as he'll be missed on the field, the bigger loss could be off of it.
His presence will be missed on the field, too, though. Maybe he wasn't the flashiest player. If we're being honest, he was not in the team's ideal starting XI. What made Estrada valuable was that he could be used at multiple positions without having to worry about a massive hole forming around him. Dave will focus more on how that hole will be filled, but it's worth remembering that Estrada was more than just a place-holder.
It's tempting to think that Estrada's production was really limited to those five goals in the Sounders' first four games. That ignores a few things, though.
The big one was that as a forward, he was instrumental in allowing Fredy Montero to have more freedom to do his thing on offense. As long as Estrada was on the field, Montero could roam around the midfield, look to pick off the stray pass and pick up the ball wherever was convenient. Without him, Montero will probably have to work a little harder to find room to operate.
Whether or not Estrada was a "true" starter also ignores the reality that he was going to get plenty of minutes from here on out. Just looking at the upcoming schedule, which features at least seven games over 22 days and as many as nine games over 30 days. Estrada is going to miss the first one or two CONCACAF Champions League group stage games, as well as a potential U.S. Open Cup semifinal and final.
As much promise as Sammy Ochoa, Cordell Cato and Alex Caskey have shown, those are situations where their inexperience is likely to show.
None of this is to suggest that Estrada's absence has to mean the end of the world. If the Sounders "true" starters can stay healthy, that would go a long way toward mitigating the loss. What this does is remove one more safety net. Let's hope it doesn't get tested too much more.