While today marks the start of the MLS summer transfer window, the San Jose Earthquakes got started a day earlier with a bunch of player moves that will have a significant impact on the starting XI. In fact, if general manager John Doyle’s remarks to MLSsoccer.com are any indication, the Quakes have plenty of wriggle room under the salary cap and might still make some deals over the next month — great news for anyone still holding out hope that the team signs another rent-a-DP for the latter half of the season.
To recap from yesterday: forward/midfielder Ryan Johnson, often maligned by Quakes supporters over the past season and a half, has been traded to Toronto FC. Along with Johnson, the Quakes sent an undisclosed amount of allocation money (somebody nudge me awake when MLS actually discloses information about allocation money transactions, though I don’t expect that will ever happen) and an International Player roster slot to TFC, and in exchange picked up a trio of players that Doyle and head coach Frank Yallop see as potentially stepping into the starting line-up when they arrive. Now, I can see Jacob Peterson being immediately deployed at the troublesome right wing position, but not Alan Gordon as a starting target forward. Nana Attakora, the third Red making his way to San Jose, is still a few weeks away from being healthy enough to play. Basically, Attakora replaces the traded Brandon McDonald as a back-up to the regular central defending duo of Jason Hernandez and Bobby Burling.
(Quick aside: was anyone else frustrated to see Hernandez left off the MLS Team of the Week? I know Tim Ream did well for NY, but without the highlight reel sliding saves from Jay against Philadelphia, the Union easily walk away with all three points from Buck Shaw last Saturday. For that matter, Ream gets the nod for a team that lost to DC United, who coincidentally, were rock solid in defense behind the efforts of McDonald. George John of FC Dallas made it too in a losing effort. I suppose I value winning performances over popularity contests every time…)
While not yet confirmed by the Earthquakes, two more players left San Jose yesterday — though not via trade, rather on loan for the remainder of the summer. Repeating a move he made last season, Justin Morrow has been loaned out to FC Tampa Bay of the NASL. In fact, after arriving in Florida earlier in the day, Morrow stepped on the field that same evening to help his team beat English Premier League side Bolton Wanderers in a preseason friendly. After playing the entire 90 minutes for the Quakes against West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday, that gives Morrow two victories against EPL clubs in a 48 hour stretch — nicely done Justin!
The other loan assignment was made to little-used forward Matt Luzunaris, who will join another Florida based club, Orlando City FC, for the summer. The Quakes rookie, with only two late match substitution appearances with the first team, desperately needs more playing time in meaningful competition. Just last week, Luzunaris appeared frustrated at the lack of opportunities he was getting in San Jose. While he has looked solid in the Reserve League — including a game winner against the Vancouver Whitecaps — he still needs to get seasoning as a target forward. Not blessed with great speed, but lacking the physical size of Steven Lenhart or the newly acquired Alan Gordon, Luzunaris needs to develop his game further if he is going to fill that niche in the future for the Earthquakes.
All in all, the Quakes training sessions and matches will look a whole lot different over the summer of 2011. New faces in intra-squad scrimmages should help elevate the competition for starting roles that has slipped in the last few weeks. And with the hope that money is available to bring in even more new players, the second half of the MLS season is looking up for San Jose.