A new face at San Jose Earthquakes training the week was a familiar one, as midfielder Khari Stephenson joined the team on trial this week.
Stephenson played for the Earthquakes from 2010 through 2012 before having being waived following the team's elimination in the 2012 MLS Cup playoffs. The Jamaican central midfielder signed with Real Salt Lake for the 2013 MLS season, but he was let go after making only 19 first team appearances for the Claret and Cobalt.
"We know Khari well," Earthquakes head coach Mark Watson told Center Line Soccer. "We know is a good player."
After going unselected in the MLS Re-Entry Draft, the 33-year old became a free agent. Earlier this preseason, he trained with DC United, but an offer was not forthcoming. Stephenson is a known quantity to Watson, and the Quakes' coach will be evaluating the midfielder during the team's Rose City Invitational run.
"We are still looking at a couple of different players at a couple of different spots, Watson said. "We'll get through the Portland tournament and probably make our decisions then knowing that we have almost 10 days before the start of the season."
Stephenson made 69 appearances for the Earthquakes and scored 8 goals. He had his career-best MLS season in 2012 when he tallied 5 goals and notched 4 assists in 27 starts. His most memorable goal while in San Jose was a long-range blast against the Seattle Sounders in 2011 that beat goalkeeper Kasey Keller from 40 yards out.
Stephenson still has plenty left in the tank, as indicating by his production at RSL last season, and he would add to the depth the Earthquakes have in central midfield if he was signed. Though he was one of the highest paid players on San Jose's roster in 2012, earning $203,333.33 in guaranteed compensation according to figures released by the MLS Players Union, Stephenson collected only $81,958.33 last season with Salt Lake. Given his projected role as a back-up central midfielder with the Earthquakes, Stephenson would likely make a comparable amount if he was signed by San Jose.
With three weeks left until their MLS season opener, and 16 days until the opening leg of their CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series, the Earthquakes feature 26 players on their 2014 roster. MLS teams can have up to 30 players on their roster, according to the most current rules and regulations.