As May gave way to June last year, an unassuming Turkish forward found his way to San Jose in search of a chance to play in Major League Soccer. Hoping to be given the chance to ply his trade in the United States and subsequently live closer to his girlfriend, the veteran striker arranged a trial with the Earthquakes, paying for the week-long experience out of his own pocket. Scheduled to leave California after the week was through, he was asked to stick around one day longer so that he could play in a Reserve League match that weekend. Seizing the opportunity to make one last positive impression on the coaching staff, the forward struck for two goals in the Earthquakes 3-0 victory over the L.A. Galaxy reserves.
That player’s name was Sercan Güvenışık (pronounced "SER-john gu-VEN-ah-shuck"), and earlier this week he signed on as the newest member of the San Jose Earthquakes. The 32-year old German born striker holds dual citizenship with Germany and Turkey and once featured as a youth player for the Turkish U-21 national team. According to the player and representatives of the Earthquakes, Güvenışık becomes the first Turk to ever be signed by MLS.
“He’s pretty good at playing the last line of defense and dipping behind defenders,” shared head coach Frank Yallop following the announcement of the signing. “That’s something we didn’t have a lot of in years gone by and something we are trying to address. He’s sharp, but he is not blazingly quick, but he makes good runs.”
Güvenışık was well received during his trial last season, and coach Yallop said at the time that he welcomed him joining the Earthquakes, but negotiations to bring the Turkish forward to San Jose broke down because he was still under contract with German Bundesliga 3 squad SC Preußen Münster. While the details of his new contract with the Earthquakes were not disclosed, it was revealed that Güvenışık came to San Jose on a free transfer from his prior club in Germany and the deal fit comfortably into the team’s salary budget.
“We had him on trial last year, and we wanted to sign him over the summer,” said Yallop. “But now it is a free transfer and the process was much smoother this time around. The conditions of his contract were very reasonable so we thought it was a pretty good deal to do and felt good about it.”
Güvenışık came to trial in San Jose just as star forward Chris Wondolowski was joining the U.S. Men’s National Team for the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup and Tottenham loanee Simon Dawkins was recovering from calf surgery. That left the Earthquakes relying heavily on newcomer Steven Lenhart to lead the forwards, and it was clear the team needed to build depth at that position. Just as was almost the case last season, San Jose will look to Güvenışık to be a #4 or #5 striker for the team in 2012.
“He’s very active and finishes his chances well, that was a big part of what we liked about him,” said Yallop. “He adds a quality that we just haven’t had. We have a lot of young strikers on the roster, so Sercan will add a bit more experience to our forward corps.”
Güvenışık is expected to join the Earthquakes within the next week and will bring the number of forwards on the current roster to five. In a statement released by the Earthquakes, the forward sounded pleased at the chance to make his mark in MLS.
“I am really happy to sign with the San Jose Earthquakes and Major League Soccer,” said Guvenisik. “It has always been my dream to play in the United States, and MLS is growing each and every year. It makes me proud, too, to be the first Turkish player to sign with MLS, and I hope to represent the Turkish community well here and put more Turkish eyes on the league. I am looking forward to joining my teammates soon and working with (head coach) Frank (Yallop) and his staff.”
(Photo courtesy of Lyndsay Radnedge)