When Toronto FC are in the news, they tend to let the spotlight linger. Not long after making it official that they had acquired Polish International Damien Perquis, the club made another move. This time it was via trade, acquiring defender Eriq Zavaleta from the Seattle Sounders. In less than 24 hours the team has improved its back line and have a roster that is really starting to take shape.
Zavaleta spent last season on a rare inter-league lone, provided one considers Chivas USA to really have been in the same league as the Seattle Sounders. He played in 17 MLS games for the club that is now on "hiatus", starting in 15 of them. Prior to that, he played 5 games, a total of 31 minutes, with Seattle Sounders in 2013. That was the same year he went 10th overall in the MLS superdraft.
A large part of Zavaleta's appeal to Toronto is his versatility. He can play multiple roles across the backline, something that is crucial in league not really known for its depth. He also brings a solid 6'1" and 185 pound frame that fill certainly help him succeed in a league that favours big defenders. Finally, although this should not be given undue attention, he is the nephew of Toronto FC manager Greg Vanney. I guess when Toronto said they wanted this team to be a family, they really meant it.
Zavaleta, with 22 games of experience under his belt, is also a better option than Skylar Thomas or Clement Simonen, who would have been given a spot on the roster that likely exceeded their capabilities. They may still be on the bench on occasion, but will be the sixth/seventh defensive options instead of being as high as fourth or fifth. This is crucial for a team that tends to come out on the wrong side of the injury plague.
Ultimately, this is a small risk move for the club with a potentially high reward should Zavaleta grow into his role and fill out his potential in this league. At 22, he still has plenty of time to develop his skill and hone the potential that Sigi Schmid saw at the draft combine and during his time in College. It could also help insure that the workload on Steven Caldwell and Perquis, both somewhat vulnerable to injuries, is not ridiculous.
Whether or not the backline is better than it was last season remains to be seen. On the surface, however, there does seem to be improvement. Nick Hagglund has hardly regressed for a second since stepping into the league and has only shown improvement with each and every challenge. Potential notwithstanding, there is no question that Perquis is better than Doneil Henry, maybe even significantly. While the other commodities are unproven, there are enough options that at least one of Thomas, Simonen and Zavaleta should be adequate.