Eric Bird was a do it all guy for the RGVFC midfield in 2016. The second year pro out of the University of Virginia was sometimes a starter, sometimes an attacking mid, or the complete opposite, or a sub. No matter what the circumstance or assignment, Birdman made plays for the Toros. He explains his versatility, his mindset, and his offseason job.
Dynamo Theory: Last year, you were drafted by the Philadelphia Union, and loaned to the USL’s Harrisburg City Islanders, but you were never really healthy. What was your biggest takeaway from your true, first full season professionally?
Eric Bird: I’m just very proud I was able to be a part of this first year team, and represent for the Rio Grande Valley community. I’m proud of the coaches, and the players for everything we were able to achieve, and the friendships we were able to form. And I’m proud of myself for being able to bounce back and have a good season after a tough first year in Philadelphia.
DT: You were one of the main players that factored into the match, either as a sub or a starter. How were you able to be effective in either setting?
Bird: As a starter, I feel like I was able to help control the tempo of the game from the early stages. Our team wanted to possess the ball. So by starting in a deeper role I was able to get on the ball more often and help orchestrate our offense. I was also out there to win the ball back in the midfield.
Coming off the bench, the most important thing you want to add to a game is energy. So every time I came on I tried to be a spark to either help us close out a win or push us forward to get a better result.
DT: In addition to being versatile with your playing time, you were also multidimensional in your assignment. Sometimes you were a holding midfielder, other times in a more attacking role. What position do you think suits you best?
Bird: To be honest, I don’t have a preference where I play on the field. I’m happy letting the coach decide where he thinks I can help out the team most effectively. At the end of the day, the most important thing for me is to be on the field playing and helping my team win games.
DT: You personally were featured on the USL Goals of the Week multiple times. What was your favorite Toros goal of the season?
Bird: My favorite goal of the year was when Emilio Garcia scored an absolutely amazing 30 yard free-kick at home against Seattle. It gave our offense a much needed spark, which we used to go on a run of 5 straight wins.
DT: You finished the year with six goals in the regular season, and a nasty half volley in the playoffs. A lot of those came when the club needed an equalizer, or a go ahead goal. How do you prepare for those moments, or is it just something that comes natural?
Bird: I’m not sure if it’s something that comes natural or not. When I’m out on the field, I don’t ever think of the circumstances. I’m really not thinking about anything at all. I just try to play instinctively because its easy to get caught up in the moment and overthink.
DT: What do you think you showed MLS scouts this season?
Bird: Hopefully, I showed them that I’m a hard-working and capable footballer that can impact a game on both sides of the ball.
DT: What is on tap for you this offseason?
Bird: I will be living in Charlottesville, Virginia, as a volunteer assistant coach for the University of Virginia Men’s Soccer Team. I’m excited to be back in a familiar environment, where I can continue to play at a high level, and be with close friends as I prepare for next season.
DT: Speaking of Virginia, what was your record as a Cavalier against RGVFC teammates Kyle Murphy and TJ Casner, when they were at Clemson?
Bird: Yikes, I don’t think I want to say. The Clemson guys probably got the best of us more times than we got over them during my 4 years. But it was always a good game, and of course, we had some friendly locker room banter going on between us.
DT: In my opinion, it’s fair to say you had the best hair on the team. Was there anyone even close in that department?
Bird: *Laughs* I appreciate the compliment. Lots of great hair on the Toros this year. It was a big topic for us off the field. Shoutout to TJ!
DT: Finally, what would you like to say to the RGVFC supporters?
Bird: I just want to say that I really enjoyed my time down in the Rio Grande Valley. I want to thank the fans for their patience throughout the year, and their unwavering support. The team wouldn’t have achieved half as much if we didn’t have you. I can’t wait to watch this club continue to grow in the coming years. God Bless!