CARSON, Calif. – While Chivas USA have amassed allocation money and draft picks in trading away the likes of Casey Townsend, Ben Zemanski, James Riley and Shalrie Joseph, new manager José Luis Sánchez Solá did make sure to claim one player via those MLS swaps: Eric Avila.
The 25-year-old midfielder San Diego native was coveted enough by “El Chelís” that he shipped out one of the club's key contributors in the past, Nick LaBrocca, to the Colorado Rapids.
“The transition was pretty easy,” Avila told MLSsoccer.com this week. “Everyone was kind of new, in a way, so everyone welcomed each other. Soccer-wise it was a little different. I’ve been playing in the MLS in all of these systems, so this was a big change. But everyone has learned quickly and everyone gets along easy. It’s just a bunch of new faces, so it’s worked well.”
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Avila scored a goal and assisted on another in last week’s 3-0 exhibition victory against the Rapids in Las Vegas. He has looked strong in training, earning high praise from Chelís for his ability to push the tempo.
A position switch has allowed Avila, who debuted in 2008 with FC Dallas, to thrive in Sánchez Solá’s dynamic system.
“I’ve learned a new position and he has been helping me throughout the whole way,” Avila said. “It’s mostly about doing what I do best and making it stronger.
"He’s changed me over to a right attacking player, but it’s way wide. It’s more on the defensive side as well, but it’s up and down the right side. Before I was mostly in the middle. I also played on the wing but this is up and down, staying really wide and going forward a lot, which I love to do.”
Avila had a goal and three assists in a career-high 24 appearances last season with Toronto FC. He was then picked up by the Colorado Rapids in the 2012 Re-Entry Draft in December.
Joining the Rojiblancos in a transition year brings its challenges, but the San Diego native is optimistic about the campaign.
“We’re still trying to find our way a little bit and clean up things, but the motivation where Chelís has us at just puts us over the top,” Avila said. “It makes us fight and fight. And even though we may be missing a couple links, we all make it work as a team.”
Knowing how integral a part he is in the coaching staff’s plans, Avila is all smiles as he gets set to begin his sixth professional season.
“I’m really excited,” he said. “His whole mindset and the way he has us training is having us believe. There’s a different face, a different view of MLS. It’s what we’re trying to do. I’m excited and just anxious to get going.”