On the same evening that the San Jose Earthquakes thoroughly dominated the Chicago Fire in a vital 5-1 victory, murmurs revealed that the struggling team may have found the attack-minded midfielder they have been looking for since well over a year ago. Overheard after the match was that a multi-year deal has been lined up to sign a central midfielder, pending the player passes a physical, and he would be brought into the team during the current MLS summer transfer window.
The identity of the player was not forthcoming, but it was learned that he had significant professional experience and was still in his 20s. Speculation quickly centered on U.S. international and World Cup star Jermaine Jones, who has been flirting with a move since returning the States following the tournament, but at 32 years old, the Besiktas midfielder did not seem to fit the bill.
A more promising candidate emerged when it was learned that Matias Perez Garcia, a central attacking midfielder for Argentina Primera League side Club Atletico Tigre, was mulling a move to MLS from his native land. Could the Quakes be the mystery MLS team that the Argentine is targeting as his next club? His profile suggests that he is a logical pick for San Jose, as his experience and ability tick most of the boxes on the team's wish list.
Perez Garcia, according to observers of Argentine soccer, was a top-ten talent in the league in the 2013-14 season, as he willed Tigre away from relegation danger by elevating the Victoria district of Buenos Aries club to a mid-table finish. In 63 appearances for Tigres, starting in 2012, Perez Garcia netted a total of 13 goals. He was well-traveled prior to joining Tigre, with his previous successful stop at All Boys in 2009-10.
The 29-year old, who will turn 30 in October, is solidly built at 5'5" and 140 pounds, but he is also a quick player who loves to hold onto the ball and dribble at opponents. He is not rated as a typical #10 - a dead-accurate passer who would rack up assists as a team's main provider on offense - but his ability to gain the attention of defenders opens up a lot of opportunities for his teammates. He tends to play more from the right side of the field so that he can take advantage of his favored left foot to cut inside with possession.
With Tigre, given that he was the focal point of the team, Perez Garcia was sometimes criticized for playing too independently and not getting his teammates involved. A very strong character, he was often frustrated by a perceived lack of quality surrounding him at Tigre, and this offseason he has actively searched for a new club.
Besides the aforementioned mystery MLS team that is targeting Perez Garcia, Argentine Primera Division side Racing Club de Avellaneda has also made a strong offer to the midfielder. Reports have Racing offering upwards of $1.5 million dollars to Tigre for his services, but to date Perez Garcia has not agreed to terms. It is suggested that with his 30th birthday less than three months away, Perez Garcia is seeking a long term deal, and Tigre is asking for closer to $2 million in a transfer fee.
Racing, unsure that they will sign him, have turned their attention to other targets, but this may all be part of the negotiations. Perez Garcia had previously turned down a huge offer to play in the Emirates as to not cause his family any serious lifestyle disruptions. Relocation to the U.S. might also be viewed in the same manner, though a big contract could be enough to convince him that a move would work for him and his family.
With his skill set, Perez Garcia would seem the perfect fit for the Earthquakes. He could play on the right wing, with Shea Salinas on the left, or even as a second forward behind Chris Wondolowski up top. Whether or not he is worth a multimillion dollar contract is debatable, but by all accounts, and after viewing his highlights videos, he is all but certain to be a difference maker for San Jose.
(Hat tip to @MLSTransfers for directing Center Line Soccer to the initial report of Perez Garcia's interest in transferring to MLS.)
Video Highlights of Argentine midfielder Matias Perez Garcia