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San Jose Earthquakes 2020 player postmortem: Oswaldo Alanís

Experienced defender had huge mantle as the one big signing.

MLS: Real Salt Lake at San Jose Earthquakes Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Oswaldo Alanís was the San Jose Earthquakes’ lone big signing in 2020.

By MLS standards, it was a significant addition but for most teams it would perhaps be one of a few big moves. The Earthquakes have long been a lean team when it comes to overall spending relative to the rest of the team and making big splashes on the international market, and in light of some of the other players who had been picked up in recent years by the club, Alanís was pretty much ideal.

He was a Mexican star in a market where the Mexican population have often felt the Earthquakes really didn’t pay much attention to them over the years, and he was in need of a new spot, with Chivas de Guadalajara inexplicably deciding they no longer needed an international-caliber center back. That Alanís had previously found considerable success at Chivas with Matias Almeyda at the helm there meant the move to San Jose was far less risky than other similar situations.

Alanís’ debut for the Quakes was pretty ideal, with a furious comeback (sound familiar?) by the club capped off with his walk-off free kick goal to split the points with Toronto FC at home on opening day.

Truthfully, that was kind of his peak in terms of highlight moments in 2020, although he scored another goal later in the season. Still, center backs are supposed to be putting out fires in the back, not blowing the overhangs off the stadium with a golazo, usually.

Here were Alanís’ stats in 2020:

Oswaldo Alanís 2020 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 14 14 1,188 2 1 13 4 1 0
MiB Knockouts 2 2 180 0 0 3 0 0 0
Playoffs 1 1 120 0 0 0 0 0 0
Total 17 17 1,488 2 1 16 4 1 0

Given that San Jose’s number of conceded goals was dreadful, honestly, then Alanís did not singlehandedly transform the defense. Did he improve it? In a sense, I think he did. Bear in mind that Almeyda’s playing style means San Jose will concede sloppy counterattack goals at times, and so purely focusing in on the number of goals conceded relative to other teams doesn’t really tell the full story.

And it’s worth noting that while Alanís was recovering from an injury midseason, the Earthquakes’ remarkable 2020 turnaround began with him out of the lineup. In part that’s a testament to the mentality of the group, and the likes of Tanner Beason stepping up with Alanís unavailable.

Still, if you make all of one significant signing in a season, on defense, it’s not a surprise if that one player doesn’t fix all that ails the team. At 31 now (he’ll be 32 before the start of the 2021 season) I’m a bit concerned about possible durability issues for the player, but I also think he brought an ability to defend rather calmly in a chaotic system, a terrific ability to actually pass from the back, and yes, the occasional goal to bolster the lineup.

If the Earthquakes are able to legitimately add the pieces they say they’re aiming to do, especially in defense, this season, I wonder where that will leave Alanís in the pecking order. Again, I think he brings quite a bit to the team, but if the Quakes have another upgrade in central defense coming, will that player ultimately pair with Alanís, or supplant him? At this point, that’s an open question, and time will tell.

There’s also the chance that Alanís, with a full year in San Jose, will have acclimated to the league even better in 2021, and if he stays healthy, can step up his game a notch moving forward. I definitely think he’s capable of it, and if so, that should help the Quakes push on and become even more competitive.

So Oswaldo Alanís’ tenure with the Earthquakes started with a bang but remained fairly quiet the rest of the season. He was a good crafty veteran who brought something the team didn’t previously have, and perhaps he still has more to show in MLS. I think it was a promising first season with the Earthquakes, and hopefully there’s more results to come with Alanís playing his part.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.