Estrada photo courtesy Federación Ecuatoriano de Futból
After we reported (albeit in the aftermath of getting it wrong in our podcast this morning) that Randall Leal no longer occupies a Designated Player slot for Nashville SC, MLSSoccer.com‘s Tom Bogert has reported a potential target for the Boys in Gold. From Tom’s story:
Nashville SC are interested in acquiring another attacking Designated Player this summer with Toluca and Ecuador international forward Michael Estrada a key target, a source tells MLSsoccer.com.
Estrada, 25, has 16 goals and five assists in 50 appearances (35 starts) since joining Toluca in 2020 for a reported $3 million fee from Independiente del Valle. He has five goals in 14 caps with the Ecuadorian national team. He was linked with Argentine giants Boca Juniors in the winter.
Estrada is a key player in Ecuador’s World Cup qualifying hopes, scoring three goals in five matches as his side currently sit third place in South American qualifying, behind only Brazil and Argentina. The top four qualify directly for the 2022 World Cup while fifth place enters a playoff.MLSSoccer.com
Estrada moved through a handful of Ecuadorian clubs before joining Toluca in Liga MX between the 2019 Apertura and 2020 Clausura (South American leagues tend to run on a calendar-year schedule rather than each half-season being split between two calendar years, so it was at the end of the 2019 domestic season in Ecuador). He played in seven of Toluca’s 10 matches before the Clausura was abandoned in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.
He played all 34 games – starting 28 times – across the Apertura and Clausura (each annoyingly branded “Guard1anes”) this past season for a Toluca team that finished 11th in both stages. He scored 10 goals, second on the team behind 28-year old Argentine Alexis Canelo*, and 14th in Liga MX. He was also third on the team in assists with four, behind Canelo’s five and 10 from Rubens Sambueza. Toluca’s 49 goals tied for third in the league – well ahead of the club’s finish in the table – with a poor defense weighing them down overall.
* “This league isn’t developing enough domestic attackers” may be an even bigger problem in Liga MX than it is in MLS. Argentines, Uruguayans, and Estrada’s countrymen from Ecuador are the foreign interlopers in Mexico’s league.
A quick peek at the highlights:
At 6-2 and long-legged with a solid upper-body build, he’s pure CF (though he’s fast and technical enough to potentially play on the wings – and more so at a slightly lower level in MLS). He likes to run off the back shoulder of the centerbacks, getting in-behind for scoring opportunities.
He can dribble opponents, but is heavily right-footed, so playing across the width of the pitch is a little more limited to getting into the right situations (the left is good enough to keep possession of the ball; he’s not beating guys or shooting with it). He has a good shot but not a cannon.
As far as off-field considerations, he’s young enough that some sell-on value exists if he were to join Nashville SC and succeed to the degree that European clubs come sniffing (while Liga MX is the stronger league, MLS is doing a reasonable job positioning itself as more-visible to a move overseas). He’s also from a Spanish-speaking country – most NSC signings will either be from Central/South America or players who are fluent or near-fluent in English, as we’ve seen over time – and a potential cultural fit for a Nashville SC locker room that is heavily concentrated on the ability of guys to communicate and get along with one another.
More on Estrada if and when the situation continues to progress. The MLS transfer window re-opens July 7, so no official moves could be made until that time.