Quakes hope to mold Tracy into another aerial threat

Marcus Tracy in action for Wake Forest

Photo Credit: 
Brian Westerholt/Sports on Film

SAN JOSE, Calif. – As a tall, powerful striker with aerial skills to behold, there was perhaps no better MLS team for Marcus Tracy to land with than the San Jose Earthquakes. And that’s exactly how things transpired on Thursday.

Despite holding a mere 4.6 percent chance in a weighted lottery because of their league-leading 16-6-5 record, the Quakes secured the rights to the 2008 Hermann Award winner, who will fly to the Bay Area and is expected to join training on Monday.

Tracy took college soccer’s top honor as a senior at Wake Forest, but struggled professionally through three seasons in Denmark, plagued by tendinitis and enduring two knee operations before coming back to the US.

“It’s always good to add quality, and I think that we’re adding quality to the team,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop said Thursday after training. “We want to bring him in and see how he gets along. With the rigors of MLS, it’s not easy, but we’re hoping he’s over all his [injury] issues, has a fresh, clean start and plays well for us. ... The signs are good.”

With the Quakes already humming along on a franchise-record 56 goals, Tracy will not be called upon to make an immediate impact – although Yallop didn’t rule out the possibility of seeing him play this year.

Instead, Tracy will get the chance to build on his recent training work with the Philadelphia Union and develop his match fitness while observing the habits of San Jose’s incumbent target forwards – Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart, who have combined for 19 goals this year.

“[Tracy] will be a big, strong, powerful, fast forward that is a skillful player, too,” said Quakes midfielder Sam Cronin (at right, with Tracy), who spent 2005 through 2008 as a Deamon Decon teammate of Tracy’s. “He can beat players a lot of different ways.”

If Tracy can regain the form he had at Wake Forest, the Quakes would be getting a steal out of the move.

“He developed a lot at Wake, and turned into the best forward in college soccer,” Cronin said. “Great athleticism, great team player, worked hard for the team. He scored a lot of goals, and he set up a lot of goals, too. He was always dangerous, creating opportunities.”

Tracy’s arrival will reunite three former members of Wake Forest’s 2007 NCAA title-winning squad; defender Ike Opara overlapped with Cronin and Tracy in ’07 and ‘08. It’s not clear if that subplot had any bearing on San Jose beating the odds to snag Tracy; the Quakes ranked seventh out of eight teams involved in the weighted lottery.

“If you’re not in it, you won’t win it,” Yallop said. “So we’ll take it. Some years, you try to get everybody, and you can’t get anyone.”

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