A reserve a year ago, Estrada turning into a star

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Minutes after the seminal performance of his young career, Sounders FC forward David Estrada was asked about just how far he’s come.

From a walk-on at UCLA, to a rarely used reserve in MLS and then, finally, to a hat-trick hero on opening night to lead Seattle to a 3-1 victory Saturday against Toronto FC at CenturyLink Field.

An emotional Estrada paused to collect himself, but his lip still quivered as he said softly: “It’s been a long time coming.”

In front of a record opening-day crowd of 38,709, Estrada and the Sounders bounced back impressively from the disappointment of their midweek elimination from the CONCACAF Champions League.

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No one shined brighter than the third-year forward.

Estrada, who also scored the first goal of the season in CCL action, became the third Sounder to score three goals in an MLS game — joining former teammates Blaise Nkufo (2010) and Lamar Neagle (2011).

“No one deserves it more,” coach Sigi Schmid said of the hardworking Estrada.

In the closing minutes of the game, Estrada earned a rousing ovation from the crowd when he was subbed out of the game.

He got a big hug from Schmid upon his exit, and all the while, fans chanted: “Da-vid Es-tra-da!”

“It’s incredible to have the whole stadium chant my name,” he said.

He more than earned it.

Estrada stretched the Sounders’ lead to 2-0 in the 51st minute, when defender Marc Burch sprung him free on a breakaway and he calmly finished the open chance past goalkeeper Milos Kocic.

Toronto FC forward Ryan Johnson cut the lead to the 2-1 in the 62nd minute with a beautiful long-range strike in the top corner of the goal, but just a minute later Estrada capped the scoring after a nice give-and-go with midfielder Alvaro Fernandez.

Seattle (1-0) held on for its fourth consecutive victory against Toronto (0-1) and holds a 5-1-1 advantage in the overall series with the Canadian side. The Sounders also have won their last seven games after a defeat, dating to last year.

After the game, with all the attention on Estrada, he deflected some to his teammates.

“I’m thankful I have the type of players I play with every day,” the 24-year-old said.

Estrada originally opened the scoring in the 17th minute.

Fernandez was once again involved in the setup, spinning Toronto FC’s Ty Harden to the ground and crossing the ball in front of goal.

Hindered by a sprawling defender and goalkeeper, Estrada had a couple of chances to poke in a shot before finally breaking through. In the first half, he had four of Seattle’s five shots and probably could’ve had even more goals.

In the 25th minute, only a saving tackle by Toronto FC’s Torsten Frings prevented another scoring chance (Frings was subbed out with a hamstring injury after the play). Three minutes later, Estrada had an open look on goal, but hit a shot right at Kocic.

“I was very mad that I didn’t put away two chances that I had early on,” Estrada said.

The goals came later and he led the Sounders to an important bounce-back performance after a disappointing 6-1 defeat against Mexico’s Santos Laguna on Wednesday.

“It’s good for us to get back on track, to regain our confidence in ourselves,” said Schmid. “I’m pleased with the character we showed tonight.”

Joshua Mayers: 206-464-3184 or jmayers@seattletimes.com. On Twitter @joshuamayers.

Toronto FC 0 1 — 1
Seattle 1 2 — 3

First half — 1, Seattle FC, Estrada 1, 17th minute. Second half — 2, Seattle FC, Estrada 2 (Fernandez), 51st. 3, Toronto FC, Johnson 1 (Aceval), 62nd. 4, Seattle FC, Estrada 3 (Fernandez), 63rd. Goalies — Toronto FC, Milos Kocic; Seattle FC, Michael Gspurning. Shots — Toronto FC 13, Seattle 12. Shots on goal — Toronto FC 3, Seattle 7. Saves — Toronto FC 4, Seattle 2. Fouls — Toronto FC 14, Seattle 12. Corner kicks — Toronto FC 5, Seattle 3. Offsides — Toronto FC 3, Seattle 3. Yellow cards — Alonso, Seattle FC, 26th; Ianni, Seattle FC, 53rd; Maund, Toronto FC, 90th+. Referee — Ricardo Salazar. Assistant referees — Jeff Hosking. Mike Kampmeinert. 4th official — Ramon Hernandez. A — 38,709.

Lineups

Toronto FC — Milos Kocic, Ty Harden (Danny Koevermans, 46th), Logan Emory, Miguel Aceval, Richard Eckersley, Luis Silva, Eric Avila (Joao Plata, 57th), Terry Dunfield, Torsten Frings (Aaron Maund, 24th), Ryan Johnson, Nick Soolsma.

Seattle — Michael Gspurning, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Patrick Ianni, Adam Johansson, Marc Burch, Alvaro Fernandez (Christian Sivebaek, 65th), David Estrada (Servando Carrasco, 87th), Osvaldo Alonso, Brad Evans, Mauro Rosales (Roger Levesque, 79th), Fredy Montero.

Hat trick history
David Estrada’s impressive performance was the third hat trick for the Sounders.
Player Game
David Estrada March 17, 2012, vs. Toronto
Lamar Neagle Aug. 27, 2011, vs. Columbus
Blaise Nkufo Sept. 18, 2010, vs. Columbus