Quakes' new arrivals determined to carve out their roles
Jacob Peterson grew up in Michigan and played his collegiate soccer at Indiana. Yet being traded to San Jose just might feel like coming home.
After spending a half-season cast as a central midfielder for the first time in his six-year MLS career, Peterson will, with the Quakes, once again get a chance to ply his trade at his natural position on the right wing.
That background is why Peterson was probably the most important piece for the Earthquakes in their deal consummated Thursday with Toronto FC. The 25-year-old — acquired along with forward Alan Gordon and defender Nana Attakora in exchange for attacker Ryan Johnson, allocation money and an international player slot — will be given every opportunity to put a stop to San Jose’s revolving door at right midfield, where six different players have started through 18 matches.
“Every player thinks that they’re the solution,” Peterson told MLSsoccer.com. “If you don’t, you shouldn’t be playing at the level we all are. I’m going to try to do what I do best, and if [coach Frank Yallop] chooses me, I’ll try to reward him for his faith.”
Peterson joined the team Friday morning in Columbus, Ohio, and trained with them later that day in advance of the Quakes’ match against the Crew (Saturday, 7 pm ET, watch LIVE online). Peterson had been troubled by a hamstring problem starting back in June, but played nearly 70 minutes last week in his return to duty and said he’s physically available to start, if Yallop so desires.
“I’ve always been a wide guy since I’ve been in the league,” said Peterson, who was forced into the middle due to others’ injuries. “I think I learned a lot [playing in the middle]. Now, if I’m back out on the wing, I’ll be a lot more comfortable coming inside, where in years past that hasn’t been a strength.”
Asked if it was good to be free of the turmoil wrought in Toronto this year by new coach Aron Winter’s "Total Football" experiment, Peterson didn’t mince words.
“You said a great word, ‘experiment,’” Peterson said. “They’re pushing their agenda, and it’s not working right now. They’re trying to clean house again which, in Toronto, seems to be a habit they’ve gotten themselves into year after year. I think if you look around the league, that’s a tough strategy to go by.”
For his part, Gordon’s excitement stemmed from being reunited with Yallop after the pair worked together in 2006 and ‘07 with the Galaxy.
“I loved Frank when we were together in LA,” Gordon said. “I always hoped I’d get a chance to be on the same side again, and I think the feeling is mutual there. I think he’s a great coach and an excellent player manager.”
One of Yallop’s biggest decisions will be how he deploys his attackers. By adding Gordon to fellow bruiser Steven Lenhart, Yallop can go with a twin-towers look. Or he can use a rotation up top, providing a sure scoring option as a substitute.
“Where exactly I fit in, I’m not sure,” Gordon said. “But I know that Frank has an idea and I’m going to be willing to do anything he asks me to do, whether it’s bang up top with Lenhart or come off the bench.”
The conventional wisdom is to use a smaller, quicker forward underneath a target man. That’s what Yallop has done primarily this year, with Chris Wondolowski and Simon Dawkins playing off Lenhart. And it’s what Yallop did in LA, teaming Gordon most often with Landon Donovan.
That said, Gordon pointed out that he had significant success with Edson Buddle when the pair was used together in LA.
“I’m not going to make any predictions, but I know if we were on the field at the same time, we’d make a lot of defenses work,” Gordon said of potentially pairing with Lenhart. “We’d be a difficult pair to contain, cause a lot of damage.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes