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Veteran MLS defender Eric Avila lands with USL club in Birmingham

Jul 4, 2015; Sandy, UT, USA; Orlando City FC defender/midfielder Eric Avila (12) reacts after a red card was issued to Orlando City FC midfielder Kaka (not pictured) against Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto Stadium. The match ended in a 1-1 draw. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

Birmingham Legion FC, a United Soccer League Championship expansion side, added a defender with Major League Soccer experience last week.

The club announced Friday it signed right back Eric Avila to a contract for the 2019 season. Avila, 31, played last season with the Las Vegas Lights FC, but has appeared in 174 MLS matches across his professional career.

In 2010, Avila was part of the FC Dallas team that won the Western Conference. He played in two playoff matches and scored a goal during that run. Avila last played in MLS in 2015, appearing in 21 matches with Orlando City SC, scoring once and adding a pair of assists.

“Eric is going to be a great addition to our roster as we strive to build a winning team here in Birmingham,” Legion FC president Jay Heaps said in a statement. “Legion FC will benefit equally from his skill on the field as we will from his veteran leadership and experience off of it.”

A native of Californica, Avila played his college soccer at UC Santa Barbara and helped the Gauchos win a College Cup in 2006. A Generation Adidas player, he was drafted by FC Dallas in the second round of the 2008 MLS SuperDraft.

After departing Dallas, Avila played with Toronto FC and Chivas USA. In 98 regular season starts, Avila tallied nine goals and 16 assists in MLS play. While with Toronto, he appeared in two Concacaf Champions League matches.

Avila has played with USL sides since 2016, appearing with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Phoenix Rising FC and Las Vegas, notching five goals and six assists over 67 appearances.

Birmingham will begin its first USL season at home on March 9, taking the field against Bethlehem Steel FC.

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