Fitness a factor as Zura struggles in San Jose debut

San Jose striker Edmundo Zura during warm-ups.

Photo Credit: 
Chris MacDougall/San Jose Earthquakes

SAN JOSE, Calif. — On a night where Robbie Keane showed the LA Galaxy how to make a smashing MLS debut, the San Jose Earthquakes’ Edmundo Zura went the opposite way.

Zura, the Ecuadorian forward acquired on loan last week by the Quakes in an attempt to fill the void left by missing strikers Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon, entered in the 71st minute of San Jose’s 2-0 loss to the Galaxy. Where Keane started and scored in the 21st minute, Zura didn’t give much indication in his 20-minute stint that he would be the man who drags his new club, which currently sits seven points out of 10th place, back into postseason position.

“He struggled,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “He had a couple of touches, but you wanted an immediate impact, right? That’s the reason you do it. … It’s probably my fault for just chucking him out there, but you’ve got to see what you’ve got, find it out and work from there.”

HIGHLIGHTS: LA 2, SJ 0
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Zura, 27, may have extra time to put into his conditioning work. Quakes GM John Doyle said Tuesday that the team was still working on paperwork for Zura to join this weekend’s road trip to Toronto FC. If Zura doesn’t travel, his next chance to play for San Jose wouldn’t come until Sept. 10, against Chicago at Buck Shaw Stadium.

When the Quakes signed Zura, they denied any concern over his lack of playing time this season with his Ecuadorian side El Nacional — 399 minutes over 15 matches, never more than 45 minutes in a single game. With 11 caps for Ecuador’s national team, Zura fit the profile Doyle was targeting this summer: a still-talented player in his mid-20s who had been passed over in favor of a younger option, working in Central or South America and, therefore, already in season.

But Zura’s conditioning is not where San Jose need it to be. And it doesn’t sound like it’s just a matter of fine tuning, either. Zura admitted through a translator Tuesday that he was “not perfect” in terms of fitness, but said he was “working hard to get better and get in good shape.”

Yallop was a bit blunter in his assessment.

“I think he needs to get in condition,” Yallop said. “We thought he’d be a lot closer [to] being match fit, but he’s not. So he really needs to get working and get fit.”

Zura said the speed of MLS play was faster than that of Ecuador’s first division, but he expected that after a previous loan stint in Australia’s A-League.

“I came here to learn,” Zura said. “In your life, you have to go different places to overcome challenges and do different things.”

San Jose’s loan agreement includes an option to sign Zura after this season, so there’s always one eye on what he could potentially be worth down the road, even if he’s not able to lift the club — winless in a franchise-record 12 matches — in the short term.

“Our league, it’s a totally different league [than in Ecuador],” Yallop said. “It’s a really athletic, fast, combative league that has a lot of running. When you haven’t maybe been training at your fullest, because they’ve been trying to move him out or loan him out or whatever, maybe you don’t give everything you have [in practice]. We’ve got to make sure that we just get him in good condition, and then we’ll see from there.”

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes