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Tampa Bay Rowdies sign midfielder Eric Avila

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The Tampa Bay Rowdies got a little stronger down the middle Friday with the addition of midfielder Eric Avila.

Avila, 28, played for Orlando City a year ago after being on loan from Santos Laguna. In nine years, he has almost 1,000 minutes of play in the MLS.

Raoul (Voss), Stuart (Dobson) and I have all scouted Eric, and we all liked him immediately,” Tampa Bay Rowdies Head Coach Stuart Campbell said. “He’s a really clever player that seems to be comfortable wherever you put him on the field, which is a great player to have on any team. He brings plenty of skill and technical ability.”

His professional career began when FC Dallas selected him as a Generation Adidas member in the second round of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft. After four seasons in Dallas, including helping the club reach the MLS Cup final in 2010, Avila was traded to Toronto FC in a deal that sent former Rowdies forward Maicon Santos in the other direction.

After two seasons in Toronto, Avila was acquired by Chivas USA, where he played until the franchise disbanded in 2014. Avila then signed with Santos Laguna last year and joined Orlando City on a season-long loan.

Born in San Diego, Avila represented the United States at the Under-17 and Under-20 levels.

Tampa Bay continues to play in the Suncoast Invitational Saturday, playing against Montreal.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit garysheltonsports@gmail.com.

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