While the MLS universe was abuzz on Tuesday wondering where U.S. international DaMarcus Beasley would land in his return to the league -- an Eastern Conference team was the best guess by night's end -- an equally intriguing story was gaining traction in the Bay Area, fueled by some unusual behavior on Twitter.
When the Twitter account @PintosOfficial, which claims to be the official handle of Uruguayan defender Pablo Pintos, began following en masse the accounts of players, media, and supporters of the San Jose Earthquakes, speculation quickly grew that he might be on his way to San Jose.
The account itself has not tweeted any confirmation of that conjecture, staying silent other than to favorite some messages from respondents, so all that exists to support the theory of Pintos-to-San-Jose are the various dots that need little to be connected.
Foremost, Earthquakes president Dave Kaval has told local media that the team needs an influx of new players, especially attacking talent. The Quakes, languishing in last place in the Western Conference at the halfway mark of the season, might need more than new players to turn things around, but Kaval's comments suggest that the team is not prepared to sit out the MLS summer transfer window which opened July 8 (and closes August 6).
So why would the Quakes make the seemingly contradictory move of going after a defender? More on that tactically later. This is a signing based on need.
At least at three of the four back line positions, San Jose is set. The big exception is right back, where former All-Star defender Steven Beitashour once wrecked havoc on the overlap. Andreas Gorlitz was supposed to be the answer, but he suffered a season-ending injury before he could really fit in. Brandon Barklage, selected in the off-season Re-Entry Draft, has been serviceable, but he was recently pulled from the DC United game at halftime due to ineffectiveness. Cordell Cato has played there earlier in the season and Shaun Francis stepped in for the last game.
Dot #1 -- the Quakes could use an upgrade at right back
A naysayer would exclaim that Kaval promised upgrades on offense. The way the Quakes play, with wing play being so important to getting service into the box for the forwards, a healthy and fast fullback is essential. Beitashour was fantastic at getting involved in the attacking third, making intelligent overlapping runs that left him with space to whip crosses into the penalty area. San Jose has had nothing of the like since Beitashour was traded to the Vancouver Whitecaps for allocation money before the season. A Beitashour-like player would improve the Earthquakes offense.
Dot #2 -- Better fullbacks mean better opportunities on offense
Pintos, who at just 27-years old, has played as a right back since turning professional in 2006 with Uruguay's Defensor Sporting. He had an ill-fated move to Italian club Lazio scuttled by the Italian Football Federation, and he joined Getafe of Spain soon after. His last team was also his first, Defensor, though Pintos is reported to have left the Copa Libertadores semifinalist and may look to move abroad again.
Dot #3 -- Pintos has made overtures of playing overseas
Last summer, the Earthquakes brought in Jordan Stewart to supplant a flagging Justin Morrow. The move paid off over the second half of the season as the Quakes rallied to within a tiebreaker of making the playoffs after being left for dead by most pundits in July. Akin to Stewart's effect on the 2013 Quakes, an inspired defensive signing in 2014 might just do the same.
Dot #4 -- Signing a relatively unknown defender has worked for the Quakes before
Connect the dots and add in the unusual Twitter activity from @PintosOfficial, and it appears that very soon the Earthquakes will be announcing their latest acquisition. Is the Uruguayan the missing link between last place and a playoff spot in the West? Doubtful, but he does present an enticing signing that, at least incrementally with other signings -- perhaps a Simon Dawkins-like midfielder? -- can improve the team.