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Forward or defender? Zavaleta finally set to pick position

LAUDERHILL, Fla. — When they say Eriq Zavaleta can play equally well at forward or defender, they're not kidding.

After registering a solid game at striker in the MLS Player Combine opener on Friday, the Indiana product started at center back on Sunday in the second doubleheader which offered the MLS coaches on hand a different look.

"It’s a testament to my soccer IQ," Zavaleta said after the match. "I’m ready to pick a position and start learning more and more and becoming an expert at that position. But I’m excited that teams can look at me at two different positions."

On Sunday he showed the same technique, refined touch and aerial prowess that he did at forward just two days before. His ability to read the game has made his play at both positions look effortless.

READ: Where will Zavaleta land in the Draft?

Although it's been 10 months since Zavaleta last played at center back, he managed the position expertly against the likes of Jamaican forward Deshorn Brown. The training he received with the US Under-17 national team all came back to him.

"It took me a few minutes to settle in, but I started to figure it out and it came easy to me," Zavaleta said. "I like playing center back. I played it at a pretty high level and I learned a lot from Paul Caffrey and Wilmer Cabrera [now a Colorado Rapids assistant] and those guys and I started to feel comfortable as the game went on.

"You have got to be tuned in at all times [as a defender] and you can’t take breaks," he added. "And at forward sometimes you can get away with taking breaks. But [as a defender] you’re in a position where if you take a break or you make a mistake, they score goals. I like that. I like to be engaged. I like to be a leader."

So what is it going to be in MLS? Will a team draft him as a forward or defender?

"Each team is at least going to have an open mind about it, take me into preseason and see how I do," Zavaleta said. "I think that’s the best thing for me and for the team. And put me where I can flourish on that team. I won’t find out right away, but I’ll find out in time.

"I’m happy to be wherever. I feel like I’m ready to step in wherever and whatever team picks me. Wherever a team needs me, I’ll be there ready to play."