In Zura, Quakes hope they've stumbled upon "Hurtado type"
SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes’ cavalry is arriving from high altitude.
The Quakes, in desperate need of scoring help and mired in a franchise-record 11-match winless streak, announced Monday they have reached a loan agreement to bring Ecuadorean international Edmundo Zura to San Jose from Quito-based El Nacional.
Zura remains in Ecuador awaiting a P-1 visa, but Quakes general manager John Doyle was hopeful the 27-year-old striker could be in uniform on Saturday when the San Jose face the league-leading LA Galaxy.
“He’s a powerful guy who can get behind defenses and has a good scoring record in Ecuador,” Doyle told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “We’re looking for him to contribute, that’s for sure.”
San Jose are banking on Zura, a 6-foot, 195-pound presence in the box, helping to offset the absences of target men Steven Lenhart, who is on an indefinite family leave of absence, and Alan Gordon, who underwent surgery last week to repair three muscle tears.
“He’s as strong or stronger, faster than the guys that we have,” Doyle said. “Frank [Yallop, San Jose head coach] hasn’t had a selection of the guys he would have liked. This should give [him] a person to select from. We’ll see how he fits into MLS, but he’s been good in Ecuador and with their national team, and we’re looking forward to having him.”
Zura has been plying his trade for the last three years with El Nacional, 13-time champions in Ecuador’s top flight. Zura scored four goals and added one assist in 15 appearances this year, but he played a total of just 399 minutes in those matches, and never logged more than 45 minutes in a single game.
To Doyle, that was not necessarily a red flag, given that El Nacional went through three different coaches last year before settling on their current choice, Mario Saralegui of Uruguay.
“Different coaches come in and have different opinions on different players,” Doyle said. “Right now, he doesn’t figure in all the time, and that’s one of the reasons that we were able to get him. ... The big clubs in the world, the big leagues in the world, they just pay the money and get the best players they think they can get. All the rest of the world has to try to find bargains and gems. Hopefully he’ll be one of those type players that’s hot when he gets here and gets confident and has some good spells.”
The Quakes and Zura both hope he can perform better than he did in his first overseas loan stint. Zura was brought to Australia in 2008 by the Newcastle Jets, then the A-League’s reigning champions, but lasted only seven goal-free matches before the year-long deal was cut short at what the team said was Zura’s request.
“There were no concerns,” Doyle said. “That happens to players all the time. ... They’re different situations. You’re a different age. You learn from everything. So I wasn’t too worried about that.”
The loan agreement includes a purchase option for the Quakes in 2012, making this deal similar to — if less expensive than — the one San Jose gave Brazilian attacker Geovanni last year. Although Geovanni’s individual numbers — one goal and three assists in 777 minutes — weren’t outstanding, and the team did not bring him back for this season, Doyle felt his presence helped grease the wheels for San Jose to go 6-4-2 down the stretch in 2010 and thus capture the league’s final playoff berth.
With 10 matches left this year, San Jose (5-9-10) need to embark on a similar type of run if they want to repeat as postseason participants.
“The loan figure is more reasonable, and it does give us a great opportunity to look at him and see how he’ll be in our league,” Doyle said. “I played against Eduardo Hurtado, a great Ecuadorean in our league, a big, strong, skillful player. And I’m hoping this guy is the same type of player.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes