Ending months of speculation as to who the club would sign as its third Designated Player, the San Jose Earthquakes announced on Saturday that Swiss international Innocent Emeghara has signed with the team. The 25-year-old forward will be available to the Quakes pending receipt of his P-1 Visa and international transfer certificate. Per MLS policy, terms of the deal were not disclosed.
Emeghara is a 5'7" speedster that is known for his ability to stretch defenses. He has played for 7 different clubs in his 9-year professional career, the last stop a three-month stay with Azerbaijan football club Qarabag FK. He arrives in San Jose as a free agent, thus the Quakes will not be liable for any transfer fees in the transaction. In addition to his club career, Emeghara has made nine appearances for the Swiss national team, the last coming in 2013.
"We are excited to sign a player of his quality," said Earthquakes general manager John Doyle in a club statement. "He is a player in the prime of his career who has played at the highest levels and we are happy to bring him here on a long-term deal. I would like to thank ownership and Dave Kaval for their commitment to signing a third Designated Player."
At last Monday's first media availability, Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear talked about the ongoing search for a third DP, a priority for the club since it finished the 2014 MLS regular season in last place in the Western Conference.
"I know for a fact that myself, John [Doyle], the staff with Dave [Kaval], and the help of ownership are looking to improve the team in the form of a third designated player," said Kinnear on Monday. "Those parts are easier said than done because there are sometimes a lot more factors involved, and you are dipping into a different economics. I don't have one in the locker room right now."
Well, he does now.
Emeghara scored five goals in his eight appearances for Qarabag. With the team before that, Livorno of Italy's Serie A, the fleet forward netted four times in 30 appearances. Emeghara has also played in France and Switzerland during his career. He was born in Nigeria, but immigrated to the Alps nation at the age of 13. He left Qarabag earlier this year in an effort to test himself in a bigger league. He trialed with Bundesliga side Hamburg prior to signing with the Earthquakes.
"It is always good to sign a forward who has the potential to run away from the defense, but who is also clever enough to join in the play," said Kinnear in a club statement. "He is good signing for the league and our team. He will be a threat to score every time he steps on the field. I would like to thank ownership, John Doyle and my staff for being very thorough as we looked for a new addition to the team."
Emeghara becomes the fourth Designated Player signing in Earthquakes history. Brazilian midfielder Geovanni was the first ever Quakes DP, signing in the summer of 2010 and helping the team reach the playoffs that year. Chris Wondolowski was the second DP, earning the honor after his MLS record-tying goal scoring season of 2012. Last summer, the Earthquakes made Argentine midfielder Matias Perez Garcia the club's third DP.
Emeghara has been compared to a pair of former MLS forwards, Jermain Defoe and Omar Cummings. The new Quakes DP has a similar build to the English forward and comparable speed to the Jamaican. He is expected to partner at forward with Wondolowski, providing a one-two punch for the Earthquakes offense.