After missing out on Mix Diskerud, following the U.S. international's signing with New York City FC, the San Jose Earthquakes can now turn their attention to another pair of U.S. Soccer stars that are close to signing with Major League Soccer -- Jozy Altidore and Sacha Kljestan.
Mercurial striker Altidore is reportedly close to a deal with MLS, and many have him pegged to join Toronto FC as a replacement for departing England forward Jermain Defoe. The English press is keen to call it a swap, as Defoe would be joining Altidore's current club Sunderland in the Premier League. Undisclosed transfer fees are also supposedly part of the deal.
However, MLS does not necessarily operate in such a straightforward manner -- a player for player swap outside of league boundaries would run counter to the apparent rules MLS uses for player acquisition. In fact, ESPNFC.com's Jeff Carlisle reported that Altidore would be subject to the MLS allocation system, in which Toronto currently ranks sixth. Other teams ahead of TFC could pass on the opportunity to acquire Altidore -- and the excess transfer fee and DP salary charge his addition would incur -- paving the way for the forward to land with the Canadian side. Another option would be for Toronto to trade up in the rankings to select him outright.
The Earthquakes sit at #2 on the Allocation Ranking list, one spot below the Montreal Impact, but are unlikely to make a claim on Altidore. His star-power would certainly be a positive, especially as the Quakes prepare for the first season in their new stadium and will want to make a splash in the local Bay Area media, but the multimillion dollar expense that would come with signing him is likely to rich for the club's blood. Sure, a front line of Altidore and Chris Wondolowski would be formidable, but San Jose is likely to look for ways to spend an Altidore-level expense over multiple players.
Earthquakes president Dave Kaval has stated numerous times during the offseason that the club would look to bring in a third Designated Player signing -- Wondolowski and midfielder Matias Perez Garcia currently have that contract status, so an Altidore signing remains a possibility. However, there is little to suggest the Quakes and general manager John Doyle would see fit to invest that much money on a single player.
Which leads to a discussion on the other returning U.S. international, RSC Anderlecht midfielder Kljestan. Nearly a week ago, the Washington Post's Steven Goff reported that Kljestan was again a target by MLS teams, six months after his proposed move to the LA Galaxy was scuttled by the league. ESPNFC.com's Taylor Twellman reported that along with the Galaxy, the New York Red Bulls and Philadelphia Union were officially in the hunt for Kljestan. Add a report from Goal.com's Ives Galarcep that the Seattle Sounders are interested in trading up in the allocation rankings with Montreal at #1. Another unconfirmed MLS club had also reportedly made inquiries into acquiring Kljestan.
Could the Earthquakes be that fourth team? The 29-year old Southern California native still has a year-and-a-half left on his contract with Anderlecht, so a move to MLS would likely involve a transfer fee. Kljestan has played in the UEFA Champions League with his Belgian club, and has scored 17 goals during his tenure with Anderlecht, so a DP contract is justifiable. Given that Diskerud, with a similar resume but less miles on his legs, was signed to a non-DP deal, Kljestan may also get a similar offer. A bonus for the Quakes in that scenario would be that they get Kljestan and keep their third DP slot to use on another striker -- a rumored move this offseason.
Kljestan has suggested that Los Angeles and New York City would be his preferred distinations -- he moved to Anderlecht from now defunct Chivas USA in 2010 and played college soccer at Seton Hall -- but sunny San Jose, with brand-new Avaya Stadium as a draw, would be an ideal situation for the midfielder.
With the U.S. national team, Kljestan has played in central midfield and as a winger. His versatility as a midfielder would give Quakes head coach Dominic Kinnear numerous options on how to deploy him. Keep him in the middle and let him play deep with a more attack-minded midfielder ahead of him in a diamond formation. Play him in a more advanced role with a defensive stopper like Sam Cronin protecting the defense from the other central midfielder position. Kljestan is not a natural goalscorer, but he could certainly become a pivotal member of the Earthquakes attack.
The possibility remains that San Jose would choose to pass on both Altidore and Kljestan in the allocation process. With eyes on signing a third DP, perhaps the Quakes budget is already accounted for. The Earthquakes could do a lot worse than Kljestan, so taking the opportunity to woo him to San Jose is only logical. Time will tell in what direction the club decides to go.