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San Jose Earthquakes sign Ecuador striker Edmundo Zura on loan for remainder of 2010 MLS season

When head coach Frank Yallop revealed last Saturday night that the Earthquakes were planning to bring an attack-minded player to San Jose in the waning hours of the MLS summer transfer window, the guessing began on who that player might be. Because Yallop and general manager John Doyle didn’t want to reveal the player’s identity until all the paperwork had been approved by the league, reporters and supporters were left with very few clues. Doyle had just returned from a visit with club partner Internacional of Brazil earlier in the week, so speculation focused on the South American continent. Yallop stated that the mystery player was in form and playing for a side that was in season. There were simply too few dots to connect in identifying the newest Earthquakes’ signing.

That all changed this morning when it was announced by Ecuadorean first division side Club Deportiva El Nacional that 28-year old striker Edmundo Zura had been sent on loan to the Quakes. As translated from the original Spanish, the press release succinctly read:

“Edmundo Zura striker has been transferred to the San Jose Earthquakes Club of Major League Soccer in the United States, the Pan American champion will be linked to this prestigious club in the coming days U.S. will go on loan until December and there will be an option purchase after the season.”

The San Jose Earthquakes confirmed the signing of Zura later that morning, and corroborated the details of the rent-to-own agreement.

“We have been scouting a number of players for a long time ahead of this decision and I believe Edmundo has the potential to help our club right away,” said Earthquakes General Manager John Doyle. “We have been looking for attacking players that can score goals and provide a presence in the box. Edmundo is a well-rounded forward who can play with his back to the goal and get behind defenses. We are excited to bring him in as the team makes its push to qualify for the postseason.”

The Ecuador international has played the majority of his career in his native country, but did spend part of one season on loan with Australian A-League side Newcastle Jets. Brought aboard as a “marquee signing,” which is to the A-League what a “designated player” is to MLS, Zura failed to live up to expectations and made only 9 appearances with the Jets without scoring a single goal. Since his return to Ecuador, he has made 30 appearances for El Nacional and scored 10 times.

The deal to bring Zura to San Jose is reminiscent of the deal that last season brought in the first “designated player” in franchise history, Brazilian striker/midfielder Geovanni. In that 2010 signing, Geovanni was paid a reduced rate — but still DP money — for the remainder of the season, with a team option for 2011 and beyond at a much higher salary. Zura will join the Earthquakes on loan for the remainder of the 2011 season, which will presumably keep the cost to San Jose relatively low, and an option to purchase his contract outright will be available after the season. Similar to Geovanni, the Earthquakes are essentially getting Zura on trial in order to determine whether he is worth a DP level contract for 2012.

The move to bring in the 6-foot tall Zura should help solve the problem of who to pair with Chris Wondolowski at forward. With Lenhart away from the team indefinitely, and with Alan Gordon and Scott Sealy out with injuries, coach Yallop put Khari Stephenson up top with Wondolowski for the match against the Colorado Rapids. Midfielder Simon Dawkins, who returned to action following a leg injury, has also been employed as a striker at times in 2011, but he seems more suited to the attacking midfielder role. A big issue for the Earthquakes this season has been generating creativity through the central midfield — Dawkins may be the key to that over the season’s remaining 10 games.

The San Jose Earthquakes waited until the waning hours of the MLS summer transfer window to make a move, but the addition of Zura should be a welcome sign for an offense that has struggled to finish scoring opportunities. Edmundo Zura may not be a household name outside of Quito, but that may all change in San Jose, especially if the Ecuadorean striker is able to help rescue the team’s diminishing playoff hopes.