Simon Dawkins, the 28-year-old Jamaican-international attacking midfielder, signed a Designated Player deal with the San Jose Earthquakes last night on a free transfer from Derby County. Per team and league policy, contract details were not announced.
Dawkins endeared himself to Quakes fans from 2011-2012, when, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, he was an integral part of the "Goonies" team that won the Supporters' Shield. In 53 league appearances in MLS, he scored 14 goals from midfield. Since his stint in the US, he's played in the English Premiership with Aston Villa and the Championship with Derby, as well as making 20 appearances for the Jamaican national team.
In a conference call with reporters to discuss the signing, coach Dominic Kinnear explained that he saw Dawkins as a versatile midfielder who could play wide from either flank or through the middle, but regardless of position, a player who "puts more goals in our roster."
General Manager John Doyle also discussed the long courtship of the Tottenham academy product, saying that he "always held Simon in the highest regard as a person and a player," and that he had met with him repeatedly since 2012 in Europe and Jamaica to check in on his availability and interest in returning. By 2016, Dawkins was "hungry to play," and the transaction became an obvious one with just 6 months remaining on his Derby contract.
Both Kinnear and Doyle emphasized the importance of adding quality and competition at any position at which it becomes available, regardless of particular tactical fit. With the specter of Copa America and other international competitions over the summer, both wanted to make sure that an array of attacking options would still be available amidst the call-ups.
As for a likely tactical fit, Kinnear explained that he saw Innocent as a center forward, implying that Dawkins would most likely begin on the left wing, although the positional flexibility of both Designated Players would allow for formations beyond the flat 4-4-2 which the Quakes utilized down the stretch in the 2015 season. Kinnear seemed unworried about having just one left-footer amongst his seven potential wide players, noting that the modern game had evolved away from wingers hugging touchlines into midfielders fluidly switching flanks.
Targeted Allocation Funds were not used to complete the signing, because MLS sides are not required to be roster compliant until one week before the season begins. As such, the Quakes will review all options for fitting the four designated players on the roster, but Doyle clarified they had enough funds to keep them without making any further transactions, if that's what the club decides is best.
Beyond the Dawkins signing, Kinnear and Doyle answered other questions about the Quakes offseason plans:
- Fan-favorite Steven Lenhart has "made no progress" with the knee injury that kept him out of the entire 2015 season, but he would be invited back to the club to see if he could play again.
- Jordan Stewart is "in the building" in his recovery from an achilles injury and is expected to be on roster for 2016, but is not currently under contract. Kinnear said he was happy with Shaun Francis in his starting XI at left back, but emphasized he would not hesitate to add a quality LB if one became available.
- While no further signings are imminent, center-back depth is relatively high on the priority list. Kinnear suggested that 3rd year Quake JJ Koval might "have a future" at the position, however.
- Doyle described the draft as not being particularly deep with talent, but he was confident that the Quakes would be able to find a quality addition with their #8 pick, and would look to find diamonds in the rough in later rounds. Kinnear did say, however, that the club would "love to move up" if possible
- Home-grown player signings are not likely until next off-season at the earliest, according to Doyle
- Doyle defended Matías Pérez-García, whose performances and lapses of judgement down the stretch came under scrutiny, as having dealt with the loss of both a friend and family member at that time. He reported the Argentine playmaker was "disappointed in himself" and that he felt he had "let the team down." At this point, Doyle reported, he was committed to proving himself with the team in 2016.