[THIRTEEN FOR '13] Indiana University sophomore Eriq Zavaleta was signed by MLS Monday as the fifth underclassman to join the 2013 Generation adidas class. He led the Hoosiers' attack in their march to the 2012 NCAA title, but he is projected to play as a defender in the pros. That would only be natural. His father, El Salvador-born Carlos, spent four years as a defender in the indoor MISL, and his uncle, Greg Vanney, was a standout defender in MLS and France.
11. Eriq Zavaleta (Indiana-signed to Generation adidas contract)
10. Jason Johnson (VCU-signed to Generation adidas contract)
9. Gyasi Zardes (CSU Bakersfield-signed with Los Angeles Galaxy)
8. Walker Zimmerman (Furman-signed to Generation adidas contract)
7. Gale Agbossoumonde (Carolina RailHawks-signed with Toronto FC)
6. Oscar Sorto (Los Angeles Galaxy U-17/18s-signed with Los Angeles Galaxy)
5. Mikey Lopez (North Carolina-signed to Generation adidas contract)
4. Amando Moreno (New York Red Bulls U-17/18s-signed with New York Red Bulls)
3. Andrew Farrell (Louisville-signed to Generation adidas contract)
2. Ashton Bennett (Coastal Carolina)
1. Wil Trapp (Akron-signed with Columbus Crew)
The 6-foot-1 Zavaleta has experience playing in the back. As a freshman at Westfield (Ind.) High School in 2007, he had 25 goals and nine assists. But he was converted to defense when he entered the U.S. U-17 residency program in Florida and played three games on the U.S. backline at the 2009 Under-17 World Cup. He liked the experience.
“Soccer is very physical," he told the Hamilton County Sports Daily after his return from the Under-17 World Cup in Nigeria. "A lot of people underestimate how tough it really is. Scores are low because of great defense. It’s a very demanding sport, but I love it. I can’t get enough of it.’’
After the 2009 Under-17 World Cup, Zavaleta returned to Westfield, where his father operates the Indiana Soccer Academy, but also followed Vanney as he moved from Real Salt Lake to Chivas USA.
Zavaleta played in the RLS AZ academy program and spent part of the 2011 MLS preseason with Chivas USA. Later in the year, he helped lead the Columbus Crew Jrs. to the 2011 USL Super-20 championship. (None of the stints was long enough to qualify him for homegrown status -- and the one that would have counted if they were would have been his last.)
Zavaleta was moved back to the frontline as a freshman at Indiana, which needed help up front. Zavaleta provided it with 10 goals as a freshman and 18 as a sophomore to finish tied for third in the country. His header set up the winning goal in the Men's College Cup final against Georgetown.
He is the third Hoosier in the last five years to sign a Generation adidas contract, joining Kevin Alston (2008-New England Revolution) and Will Bruin (2010-Houston Dynamo).