CARSON, Calif. – After trading for proven midfielder Mauro Rosales, Chivas USA head coach Wilmer Cabrera had to make room in Chivas USA’s formation. Eric Avila was the easy candidate, if only for his professionalism.
Avila, however, was hardly demoted. Rather, the 26-year-old moved into a new role on the back line, working at right back all preseason and making the start there in Sunday’s season-opening 3-2 win over the Chicago Fire at StubHub Center.
The Goats had trouble sustaining a consistent lineup in 2013, but Avila was a reliable contributor on both wings under two different coaches. This year, he’s had to embrace a new position.
“It’s a different role for me; way different than what I’ve played,” Avila told MLSsoccer.com recently. “But I have the same mindset of going forward, attacking and helping the team out. I sat down with the new coaches and discussed things. This is a good opportunity for me.”
Cabrera said he wants his right back to attack in unison with Rosales but also show prowess defensively. Avila still has work to do to be comfortable with the position’s defensive responsibilities, but offseason work with veteran center backs Carlos Bocanegra and Bobby Burling made the transition smoother.
“He’s very professional and has a lot of talent,” Cabrera said of Avila. “He works hard and has an unbelievable engine. We see the possibility to develop there. If he can develop how we think he can, he’s a candidate for the position with the [US] national team. …
"[Right backs] need to attack well, and Eric Avila has all of those tools. He feels comfortable there. He’s taking short steps, but we feel he is capable of doing it, learning and adapting.”
Avila, who earned an invite to Chivas Guadalajara’s training camp last year, said he has gained even more respect for the backline after beginning to learn the ropes during preseason.
“Hopping around different positions throughout the years, it’s nice to stick to one spot and do it well,” Avila said. “This role is different, but I do see myself here. I have a good opportunity to make a statement.”