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San Jose Earthquakes 2020 player postmortem: Gilbert Fuentes

Homegrown made a cameo in disrupted season.

MLS: Vancouver Whitecaps FC at San Jose Earthquakes Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Gilbert Fuentes became an adult in 2020, and he no longer looks like the boy he was when he signed his first professional contract with the San Jose Earthquakes in 2018.

I’ll be honest and admit he was the first soccer player who when I saw him holding up the jersey proudly when he signed that pro deal, I thought “Damn, I’m getting old.” That’s not his fault! It happens to all of us at some point, I suppose.

But Fuentes had been brought along slowly by the Quakes in his first two seasons, and an untimely injury made it the case once more in 2020, too.

First, it’s worth noting Fuentes did play the season opener on loan for Reno 1868 FC (RIP) back in March, playing 89 minutes and scoring a goal to ice a 3-1 win on the road.

From there, obviously the sports world and most of the rest of the world besides shut down for a few months, and in an effort to prevent coronavirus infection and due to fixture congestion on the MLS side, there were no more loans to Reno for San Jose players.

That almost certainly stalled Fuentes’ progress a bit on the year, and in the end, he once again made a very brief cameo in MLS this season.

Here are Fuentes’ stats with the Quakes in 2020:

Gilbert Fuentes 2020 San Jose Earthquakes Statistics

2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2020 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 1 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 0
MiB Knockouts 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Playoffs 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 1 0 5 0 0 0 0 0 0

So why did he only play five minutes this season in MLS? I think much of it comes down to the broken collarbone he suffered in late May at home, which required surgery and kept him out of the MLS is Back Tournament, which turned out to be a pretty rad time for the Quakes, from the looks of it. It was rotten luck, but setbacks can be opportunities if you learn and overcome them.

It’s hard to say how much more playing time the midfielder would have gotten had he been healthy. Matias Almeyda both had his favorites but also tended to give just about everybody a chance, but where Fuentes would have shaken out is a mystery. Still, I think he and the club were expecting he’d start to build up some playing time, and it didn’t happen, unfortunately.

Fuentes remains under contract for 2021, and the club has been pretty patient with the current crop of Homegrowns. I do think now that he’s of age (he’ll be 19 before next season) and has a few years of getting used to the professional environment, next season may be something of a make-or-break year for him. If he gets a real uptick in playing time and plays well, I think he’ll be fine, but I imagine the club will want to get some tangible production out of him before long, too.

Of course, it’s up to Almeyda to get him some playing time, too, so the player will need to make his case. But while the sample sizes are too small so far to really project much of anything about Fuentes moving forward, we know there’s still a lot of excitement around the player, and hopefully he’ll get a chance to show some of that off more in 2021.

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