David Estrada retired from professional soccer after eleven years in the game. Last week’s news wasn’t too surprising, this year he played 500 minutes with only 3 starts, scoring 1 goal. Over his career he amassed nearly 16,000 minutes played winning two U.S. Open Cups while playing for nine different teams after being drafted by the Seattle Sounders. His career as a player ends with New Mexico United.
What will continue is more important than any of his 39 goals scored across MLS, NASL, USL Championship, the Open Cup, and Concacaf Champions League – Estrada continues on with New Mexico United helping them in community outreach.
I first met Estrada back in 2010, after he was drafted. Little did I know that when he spoke to Sounder at Heart about his work with Hope Place that I was meeting the real David Estrada. There had been a large hint at who he is after his St. Hattrick’s Day performance back in 2012, as well.
(On what his grandfather means to him and why he used him in his celebration…) “I never met him, but he is a big influence in my family and me playing soccer. He is big time in my life. I never met him, but he is just so important to me and my family. My extended family back home plays for a Sunday league team named after him. So using him in my celebration is like a double meaning between playing with my family and playing here with the Sounders.”Highlights, Stats, and Quotes
After drifting around with several clubs scattered around the USA, Estrada came back as a senior leader with Sounders 2 in their first season down at Cheney Stadium. He surged forth to score 11 goals, by far his best year. David’s leadership of the very young team was vital. He demonstrated professionalism to a bunch of teenagers, and they came to be more than teammates to him. At his return the group sought him out.
David taught those kids, now young me, more than just soccer.
This is what David Estrada needs to be known for – not St Hattricks Day, not his long pro career, not 11 goals on S2. Estrada needs to be known for the work he did in the community. It was often quiet here in Seattle. Never on a big money contract David’s work was work. He lived with a spirit of giving and caring.
That’s what he’ll remain doing with New Mexico, after winning recognition as their humanitarian of the year in their first two seasons. It’s also what he did with the kids around Tacoma and Seattle even after leaving the area.
He also paid attention to his old teammates, caring about their success. He paid attention to them. Defiance players weren’t just former coworkers.
Estrada’s kindness and care was evident when I reached out to him about Jesse Daley moving on to his hometown club – Brisbane Roar. David didn’t just share a great statement about Daley, he wanted to know that it was a good move – it is.
Way, way back – before Estrada was drafted – former Sounders Academy Director Darren Sawatzky told me that more important than developing good soccer players he had to make certain to develop good men. Those that have followed Sawatzky in the role, Marc Nichols and Chris Little, have echoed and amplified those statements. With Defiance in the org maybe 25% or so of an age group will become pro soccer players. The rest will get opportunities in schooling, maybe go onto coaching.
They will all be Sounders.
People like David Estrada, and recently retired Lamar Neagle, can show that the sport of soccer is just a path to being a good man. The game gave them a platform. With that platform any player, from Academy to star, can help the people around them. They can read books on a video chat with kids thousands of miles away, help plant trees, join a neighborhood center for a pickup game, deliver food, and so much more.
David did that. He’s much more than 39 pro goals and 16,000 minutes. He’s the type of man that every young player should dream of being. The state of New Mexico is fortunate to retain the services of David Estrada. He is once, and always, a Sounder. He’s also a kid from Salinas, a Bruin, and so much more.
His pro soccer career is over, but New Mexico United is right – Estrada’s just getting started.