Avila helps good friend Silva get used to life at TFC

Luis Silva

Toronto FC surprised many with its first pick in MLS SuperDraft earlier this month, including the man chosen – Luis Silva. Not because of the team that selected him, but the fact he was taken fourth overall.

Expected to be taken later in the draft, it not only caught him off guard, but was a welcome surprise to the 23 year-old University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) product. Within moments of wrapping a TFC scarf around his neck, he received a text message from friend and new teammate Eric Avila.

“I was drafted and he texted me ‘Hey, see you soon. Congratulations.’ He’s been telling me great things and the style they like to play,” said Silva.

“I’ve been talking to him a lot and he’s been telling me a few things about the coach likes or how he likes to get things done.”

Avila and Silva were teammates on a Chivas USA U-20 team that travelled to Costa Rica for a tournament and have remained in touch ever since. They bonded as Avila also excelled in the UCSB program and was a member of the 2006 NCAA Men’s National Championship squad. (That team also included former TFC defender Andy Iro).

“I didn’t know him as well, but we played the whole tournament there – we played against Real Madrid, Saprissa, good teams,” said Avila. “After that we parted ways and I kept coming back to Santa Barbara for the reunions and I kept seeing him and keep seeing all the soccer and catching up with the team.”

In the short time after being drafted, Avila has taken him under his wing and helping Silva make the transition to a new club and city.

“He always had questions about the MLS and how contracts work and what team and how the level is, is it fast. Luckily he got here,” said Avila.

“He’s a great player. I’ve seen him play – great school he went to. But coming here was cool. I took him around the city for a little bit, showed him around, but it’s good, he’s adjusting well. It’s really nice to have someone that he knows and especially coming to a new team.”

Silva is taking the entire experience in stride, but has felt a little overwhelmed at times.

“It’s a little overwhelming in a way, but I’m ready,” said Silva. “It’s been my dream since I was a kid so I’m just looking forward to it and try getting on the team.

“So far everything has been great, just adjusting to the weather and the time change, but other than that, I love the city and I love the fans so far.”

Avila has been in Silva’s shoes before and realizes that it can be tough taking the leap from playing in college to the professional level. He has eased himself into the role of being a coach/mentor despite being just 24 years old.

“I think the coaches and even the players have given me the role of a young, experienced veteran,” said Avila. “And a lot of people have come in and out in a way and we’re all a young team, but anything I can do to just help out because I knew that when I came in all the players helped me a lot and made it so much easier.”

Avila has already discussed the finer details of Winter’s system with Silva and is doing everything he can to bring his friend up to speed.

“We spent a good time at the hotel room talking about formations, how he wants the coach to play, so how to draw it all out, X’s and O’s. But it was good to ease him up. I think he’s a great player and he just needs to ease up and play. And it’ll be fun.”

Ground Game
Silva had an impressive career in college racking up 28 goals and 23 assists in 88 career games finishing fourth all-time in points and tied for sixth in goals at UCSB. His final year as a Gaucho was his best and he was ranked third in the country in points (44) and sixth in goals (17).

His extraordinary play earned him several honours including being named to the 2011 All-American First Team by the NSCAA and College Soccer News, Soccer America MVPs First Team pick, All-Far West Region First Team pick and Big West Midfielder of the Year.

Being drafted at fourth overall also made him the highest draft pick in UCSB history, an honour formerly held by D.C. United striker Chris Pontius, who was drafted seventh overall in 2009. Silva will be the third Gaucho to wear a TFC jersey, the other being Iro, who chose not to re-sign with the club in 2012.

Silva describes himself as, “a hard-working midfielder that plays both sides of the ball but has good attacking abilities as goal scoring, setting up my teammates for goals and a great vision.”

No lack of confidence or self-esteem on this kid.

TFC Head Coach and Technical Director Aron Winter assessed Silva as being strong technically and tactically and a good fit in Toronto. Silva also thought it was Winter’s style of play of keeping the ball on the ground that complemented his skills.

“My style would be keeping the ball on the ground, moving the ball, playing, touch the ball. Not many long balls or stuff like that, so that’s what I did in Santa Barbara and that’s what the coach likes to do here. So that fits in with me,” said Silva who played various formations at Santa Barbara, including Winter’s preference of the 4-3-3.

The midfielder understands that he has a lot to learn but isn’t shying away from his goal of playing with the first team.

“It’s just a matter of me trying to fit in,” said Silva. “To get on the starting 20 first and then work myself in the pitch.”

“I’m always up to learning, especially (from) those guys who have been in the league longer or have been playing for a longer time. Just learning and try to do things right this year.”

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About Aman Dhanoa

Aman Dhanoa has a BAA in Journalism from Ryerson University and is currently the Sports Editor/Reporter for the South Asian news site Oye! Times (oyetimes.com). Dhanoa is also the co-host of 500 Level – Toronto Sports Talk, a weekly podcast available on iTunes. He is passionate about all sports but in regards to soccer he has covered the Toronto FC beat as well as the Canadian men’s national team.