February is the time of year when the caveat, "It's early," is attached to many player assessments. Training camps have just begun, and any impressions -- both positive and negative -- have to be put in their proper context.
That doesn't prevent some coaches from breathing a sigh of relief that their offseason hunches have been confirmed, however, and that appears to be the case with the San Jose Earthquakes manager Frank Yallop and his new striker, Eduardo.
The Brazilian got on the scoresheet last week in the Quakes' 1-0 exhibition win over the Kansas City Wizards. And in the process provided an early indication of what he will bring to the side.
"[Eduardo] gives us something different," said Yallop. "Both Ryan Johnson and Cornell Glen get their chances by outrunning people. I think Eduardo brings other players into the game, he's a good hold-up player, and he's good on the ball. He's more of a target, but he can run too. He's got a nice mixture to him."
At the end of last season, Yallop indicated he was looking more for a second striker who had the ability to create while at the same time helping the team keep possession. Eduardo doesn't quite fit that description, but the Quakes manager does feel the striker can still help the team in those areas.
"He comes deep into midfield and he slides guys in," said Yallop of Eduardo. "He's kind of got some [playmaker] in him; once he comes off and turns he can find guys with the pass."
Eduardo, for his part, is pleased with the way he has settled in, although he was quick to note that the first pages have only just begun to turn on the MLS calendar.
"I like the city, I like the team, and I can't wait for the season to start," said Eduardo, with teammate Antonio Ribeiro acting as translator. "We started earlier in preseason, so I want the season to start already."
The forward's eagerness to begin is more understandable given that he first trained with San Jose immediately after the end of last season. After spending nearly a decade playing in Belgium, France and Switzerland, Eduardo would certainly appear to have the necessary pedigree to cut it in MLS. But Yallop wanted assurances that what he had seen on video could be duplicated in training, so a trial was arranged.
"We got a good look at [Eduardo] there," said Yallop. "It was great to have him up in front of us. We saw his character, spoke to him, saw his play, saw his work rate and we said, 'You know what? This guy's good. We've got to sign him.'
"Scouting them in their environment, it's not the same as MLS. It's a very physical league, it's got strong players, fast, and it's not a South American-type look. ... If you really want someone, we try to bring them in. It's the best way of doing it."
It's an approach San Jose hopes will pay off, especially after the team spun their wheels last season on the likes of Cam Weaver and Pablo Campos in a bid to upgrade their attack. And while there are no guarantees that Eduardo will out-do his predecessors, the glint in Yallop's eye indicates he's thinks he's on to something.
"[Eduardo] can handle the physical, that's for sure, he's strong," said Yallop. "I'm happy with what I've seen so far."
Aziz not the Ansah: One month ago, FC Dallas signed Aziz Ansah and immediately pegged him as the right back of the future. But less than two weeks into training camp, he became a part of their past, as FCD abruptly released the Ghanaian international.
So why the sudden change of heart? According to Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman, the emergence of Zach Loyd as a viable (and cheaper) option at right back made Ansah expendable.
"When we went into the draft, we were looking for someone that could help us with our attacking play, and as it turns out the strikers we were looking at had already been picked," said Hyndman in a phone interview. "We were very happy to get Zach Loyd who is a defender and right fullback. Going through preseason, we realized it didn't behoove us to have [Ansah] here with his salary when we had Zach here.
"He really didn't do anything wrong, it just fitting into the salary cap and Loyd we think will be a very good player in MLS."
Hyndman added that the style of play Ansah was accustomed to made him less of a fit than at first appeared.
"For him, [he was used to a system] that was less disciplined where they're so athletic they cover up for each other," said Hyndman. "What I was looking for was just something a little more organized, disciplined, and more structured. I think if anyone says he wasn't impressive, it's probably because of that. It's definitely not because he's not talented."
Hyndman went on to add that Loyd will initially provide cover for Heath Pearce, but with the presumed right back possibly heading to the World Cup this summer, Loyd could log some heavy minutes for FCD during May and June.
Hodges set for Rapids trial: After watching forward Omar Cummings enjoy something of a breakout season in MLS last year with eight goals and 12 assists, the Colorado Rapids are looking to raid the Caribbean once again. According to a team spokesman, Colorado is planning to bring in Jamaican international Devon Hodges on trial later this week.
Hodges has been tearing up Jamaica's National Premier League, topping the goalscoring charts during the 2008-09 season with 25 goals for Rivoli United, and netting 14 times in the current campaign as of January 25. But unlike Cummings, who uses his blazing pace to unbalance defenses, Hodges is more of a classic target forward who is adept with his back to goal.
According to a report in The Jamaica Observer, several MLS teams had expressed interest in Hodges, but the same Colorado spokesman indicated that the Rapids were the first to slap a discovery tag on the striker, giving them right of first refusal.
Jeff Carlisle is a regular contributor to ESPN Soccernet, and covers the San Jose Earthquakes for Center Line Soccer and MLSnet.com. Jeff can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Views and opinions expressed in this column are the author's, and not necessarily those of Major League Soccer or MLSnet.com.