It’s no secret that the San Jose Earthquakes have found it difficult to score goals the past few seasons. In fact, last year, the Quakes netted 32 times during the 34-match season — less than a goal per game — and the team made it a priority to address the issue in the off-season.
Enter attacking midfielder Jahmir Hyka, “The Messi of Albania” to his fans at former club FC Luzern in the Swiss Super League, who signed with San Jose earlier this month and made his debut with the team Tuesday against USL affiliate Reno 1868 FC in a closed door scrimmage. The 28-year-old Albanian international did not disappoint in his 15 minute cameo to close out the 1-1 draw, eliciting rave reviews from coaches and observers.
“He’s a really good soccer player,” said head coach Dominic Kinnear. “He brought some energy to the game, coming in late. He didn’t waste the ball, and he had good movement to get on it.”
The fifth of five international players signed in the off-season — Harold Cummings, Marcos Urena, Danny Hoesen, and Florian Jungwirth are the others — Hyka comes with the most impressive pedigree, having earned 42 caps since making his debut as an 18-year-old in 2007. He has featured at Luzern for over five seasons, scoring 29 goals and adding 20 assists.
"Hyka brings an element of surprise to any team and to any match," said general manager Jesse Fioranelli. "Being a player that is very strong technically, he attacks the defense in one-on-one situations without any indication of which way he will go or the pass that he will be making. This means that our strikers will be well served and the element of surprise will allow us to attack from many fronts."
Hyka will wear the #10 jersey this season — an honor bestowed on a team’s primary creative force — and he appears ready to accept the mantle as the Quakes playmaker. Both in Tuesday’s preseason game and in regular team training sessions this week, the 5’7” midfielder has impressed his new teammates as well, including fellow winger Simon Dawkins.
“He looked really good,” said Dawkins. “Really good on the ball and has a good touch. He looked dangerous in front of goal as well. He’s a great addition for us and can help a lot this season.”
The newest Earthquake has yet to make his first comments to the press — San Jose has scheduled an introductory press conference this Saturday ahead of the team’s preseason friendly against Sacramento Republic FC — but it is clear that he is fitting in quickly and could be ready to start the Quakes season opener next Saturday against the Montreal Impact. He is not expected to start against Sacramento, but he’ll surely earn playing time in his Avaya Stadium debut.
“He’s really smart on the ball and confident in tight places,” said Kinnear. “He has a good first touch, and we know he is going to be a good player for us.”