Quakes spending big to upgrade scouting capabilities

Frank Yallop, John Doyle

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SAN JOSE, Calif. — With hundreds of thousands of dollars expected to come off of their books and plenty of roster spots yet to be locked up, the San Jose Earthquakes are facing their thorniest offseason since being re-established in 2008.

The decisions Quakes officials make regarding how and where to spend that cash will either put the club on a path back to the playoffs, or on a return trip to the land of profound disappointment.

It’s a perfect time, in other words, for the Quakes to upgrade their scouting capabilities — which they’ve done in a big way.

San Jose have hired a full-time video analyst to help the club sift through hours of tape on all the various players they’re keeping tabs on at any given point in time. And they’re also one of several MLS clubs who recently signed on with Wyscout.com, a service that significantly widens the club’s reach and ability to see video on players from all around the globe.

“We’re scouting all over the world and in college,” Quakes general manager John Doyle said. “This year, we know we’re going to have money. We know we’re going to have some cap space and we’re doing everything possible to make sure that we fill those positions with guys that’ll help us win.”

Team president David Kaval puts the price tag for the upgrades into six figures, which is a healthy investment for a team that went without a Designated Player last year and ranked near the bottom of the league in terms of total payroll. To Kaval, the unfiltered nature might be the best part of the new scouting tools.

“It's a way to be more effective when you actually travel and see people, whether it's Brazil or Europe or whatever, because you’ve already seen them a lot,” Kaval told MLSsoccer.com. “You have a lot more footage. And one of the key things is, it's not just the footage of the guys from their agents, it's footage of them turning the ball over, it's footage of them maybe slacking in the 70th and 80th minute. So that's really what you need. You need to see the body of work and you need to be able to see that in real time and recently, not something from three years ago. This is a game that they played in Serie A or South America in the last week, so that's fantastic.”

Part of the need for the improvements was highlighted by San Jose’s brief dalliance with forward Edmundo Zura, a former Ecuador international who was brought in just as the transfer window closed in mid-August. Zura, who came on loan from Ecuadorean side El Nacional, proved to be so badly out of shape — although the player claimed to be fully healthy — that the Quakes sent him back and filed paperwork to nullify the deal entirely.

If the Quakes do bring in the second DP in franchise history — after Geovanni joined them for the second half of 2010 — they simply cannot afford a similar swing-and-miss situation.

“At the end of the day, you're always taking a little bit of a risk when you're bringing in an asset of that nature," Kaval said. "But we think we can use technology, scouting and better business processes to make it more of a sure bet and make it more successful for the organization, no doubt.”

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