SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes welcomed their newest editions Saturday morning, as defender Harold Cummings and forward Marco Urena were introduced to the press ahead of a preseason match against the club’s U-18 and U-16 Academy teams.
“I would like to welcome two important signings to the San Jose Earthquakes,” said general manager Jesse Fioranelli, who was seated between the two players. “Both Harold and Marco are international players that have gained lots of experience. We are very excited for them to have joined the Quakes.”
Urena had arrived the day before and trained with the team, but Cummings was making his first appearance at Avaya Stadium, having only seen the facilities for the first time minutes earlier. Both would play 45 minutes in the ensuing scrimmage against the Quakes youngsters.
“I am very happy to be here,” said Cummings, through a translator. “Our goals and objectives are clear. We want to compete for a championship.”
Cummings has earned 46 caps with the Panamanian national team, and his efforts at the club level have heard him strong reviews for his physical and aggressive play.
“I have taken a good look at Harold, and I can tell you that we have another exciting young central defender that is just 25 years old,” said Fioranelli. “He brings to use physical stature and presence on defense. He is a very aggressive central defender that at a very young age has assumed responsibility for his clubs and his national team.”
Urena, who joins the Quakes from Norway’s Brondby IF, has made 40 appearances for Costa Rica, including at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, and scored 10 goals. He is just 26 years old and should provide the Quakes with a important offensive upgrade.
“I really like to play forward, up top,” said Urena. “This is my favorite position. I hope to score a lot of goals for San Jose.”
Urena did not score at all in his half-year with Brondby, but he did not see that as a sign of what is to come. He recognized that the team already has an effective goal-scorer in Chris Wondolowski, so he hopes to prove that he belongs on the field as well. It is clear that Urena can provide more than just goals, however, something the Quakes GM made clear in his assessment of the Costa Rican.
“I am very happy to have him join the Quakes,” said Fioranelli, “especially because he is going to give us versatility in midfield, being able to connect our defensive and offensive efforts. Having looked at him in more depth, I really appreciate how much presence he has on the field, and how much ground he covers.”
The influx of Central American players could be seen as a handicap for the Earthquakes, especially if Gold Cup call-ups this summer call them away from the club, but that was not of concern to Fioranelli, who made it clear he wants to bring in players with experience on the international level. Signing players that are not too old is also a priority, and Cummings and Urena fit the bill.
“Both players are under the age of 30,” said Fioranelli, “which was one of the most important criteria with regards to the signings.”
San Jose also benefited from a bit of networking in bringing in the two new signings, as other CONCACAF players have been talking about the strength of MLS. The proximity of the league to their home countries is also a big selling point, but it is the personal connections that can seal the deal. This was certainly the case for Cummings, as Anibal Godoy and Alberto Quintero, his teammates on the Panama national team, lobbied for him to come states
“Yes, Anibal and Qunitero let me know San Jose was a good club and a great city too,” said Cummings. “They influenced me a lot in this decision. I look forward to earning the trust of the fans here in San Jose.”
Urena also mentioned the growing visibility of MLS on the international scene, and after stints playing in Russia and Scandinavia, he welcomes a return to the Western Hemisphere.
Both Cummings and Urena provide pedigrees that should provide a good fit with the Earthquakes, though they know they both need to make a good impression in the preseason.
“Everyone has to earn his place on the team,” said Cummings. “We have to work hard to convince the coaches that we deserve a starting spot. I look forward to pairing with Victor Bernardez. He has shown strength and leadership on the field. I am here to learn from him and help him.”
The Earthquakes leave for Arizona early next week and will play three preseason matches against MLS competition. These games against Sporting KC, Real Salt Lake, and defending MLS Cup champions Seattle Sounders will provide an opportunity for Cummings, Urena, and all the Quakes starting XI hopefuls to prove they belong on the field when San Jose begins its 2017 MLS regular season on March 4.