An interminable, ever-changing series of drafts in December function more or less as MLS’s annual advent calendar, with clubs peeling back the thin cardboard doors hoping to find the spectacular but more often settling for something decent: the soccer equivalent of milk chocolate.
The San Jose Earthquakes selected Olmes Garcia, the 24-year-old Real Salt forward from Colombia, in the second stage of the re-entry draft. What that entails is that the Quakes get exclusive negotiating rights for his next contract in MLS, rather than the player himself. Usually (as with Sanna Nyassi and Marvell Wynne in 2015), the two parties get it done. That means you can expect a bit of a discount on his previous $160k/yr salary, but I’d doubt it would be more than about a 25% haircut.
In terms of playing style, he’s got top-end pace to rival Cordell Cato and exceed Alberto Quintero, but with a larger frame at 6’0” and 174 pounds (at least by listing). He has decent technique, a sense of flair, and quality finishing, which fits in much more as a forward/winger than the “wide midfielder” that Shea Salinas or Cato represents. If he’s positioned wide, that would be a departure in style for Kinnear, who prefers players in that role who track back aggressively and put in a decent tackle. Garcia is not particularly known for his defensive skills, and has rarely (if ever) been asked to do that sort of laborious track-back work. He would, however, present a significant aerial upgrade on either Cato or Quintero. It’s possible that the Quakes think he’d be adept at the role given his size and athleticism, and are planning on teaching him. For what it’s worth, he has played out wide somewhat regularly throughout his career, more frequently on the right flank, and is right-footed.
Offensively, he prefers to run past his man or receive the ball in behind rather than take them on directly, and has never been situated in high-volume passing roles. Mostly (roughly 75% of the time in 2016), he was playing on top of the line as a mobile striker, pinning the back line back. 11 goals in 4800 minutes played with RSL isn’t exemplary for a forward, but in a conservative system, with time spent playing wide roles and a large chunk of those minutes of the bench, it isn’t terrible either (it would, for example, be a better goals-to-minutes ratio than Quincy Amarikwa managed in 2016). He originally caught the eye of scouts as a potentially strong finisher, and it’s always possible that a change of scenery and system will suit him better. He also has 62 appearances off the bench in just four years, which could be valuable experience in the very role Kinnear might most want him to occupy.
If you want to take a look for yourself, here’s a highlight package (and a good one!):
Garcia’s career has stalled ever since entering the league, with a good first season, two adequate seasons, and a poor one last year. Then again, he just turned 24 and looked a bit like his old self down the stretch in 2016 after a stint with RSL’s USL team. Part of why he disappointed fans at his previous stop is not because he wasn’t useful, but because a young player with his flair and athleticism gives off the appearance of being a potential world-beater even if he isn’t exactly that.
While it doesn’t look like he’ll ever reach the heights of becoming a star, if he merely returns to his league average performance prior to 2016, as a striker he’d be a significant upgrade on Innocent Emeghara, Chad Barrett, Adam Jahn, and Henok Goitom according to the WhoScored ratings. He should be hungry to prove himself, and will want to play his way back into the kind of contract he previously signed. Kinnear also has a relatively good history with getting the right kind of effort and tactical discipline out of athletically capable players, which might bring the most out of him.
As such, my best guess on what the Quakes were thinking was that he is a young, versatile, and relatively cheap option to provide quality cover at multiple positions (much like Cato). I doubt the Front Office is thinking of him as a primary option as a starter at any position, so don’t evaluate him as if he’s the Alberto Quintero replacement. My guess is that he primarily comes off the bench, with spot starts in rotated lineups. As for position, I bet he’s primarily utilized up top, with a significant minority of the time wide right.
This is not a game-changing transaction, but hitting on these is precisely what MLS clubs need to do in order to survive the inevitable summer attrition that comes through injuries and international call-ups. If he flops, they expended nothing to get him and his salary should be manageable. If he gets back to his 2013-2014 form, he’s at least as valuable to the team as Shea Salinas or Cordell Cato, and at a particularly thin position to boot.
That’s pretty solid. Milk chocolate, if you will.