SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Bobby Burling didn’t pick up a lick of French in more than two years spent as a center back with the San Jose Earthquakes.
“It’s a good time to learn, I guess,” Burling told MLSsoccer.com with a chuckle after learning he was one of 10 players tabbed Wednesday by the Montreal Impact as part of that club’s Expansion Draft.
The loss was not wholly unexpected by the Quakes, given that Montreal coach Jesse Marsch had played with Burling on Chivas USA before the Goats dealt Burling to San Jose in September 2009.
“I think that we had a strong feeling about it when we left him unprotected that he may get taken,” Quakes general manager John Doyle told MLSsoccer.com. “So we weren’t surprised.”
It still stung, however, for San Jose to see another solid player walk out the door to join another club. Burling is the fifth player the Quakes have lost to first-year sides since 2008, following in the footsteps of James Riley (Seattle), Shea Salinas (Philadelphia), Joe Cannon (Vancouver) and Arturo Alvarez (Portland).
“I’ll be happy next year that there won’t be an expansion draft, because we keep losing good players,” Doyle said.
Burling, a 27-year-old product of Loyola Marymount, wasn’t brought in to be a full-time starter for the Quakes, but he played a career-high 2,041 minutes this year after Ike Opara suffered a season-ending foot injury June 1.
“It’s a bit of an emotional rollercoaster,” said Burling, who is out of contract and will have to reach a new deal with Montreal. “I haven’t really been able to enjoy the offseason. I’m excited to enjoy a new chapter in my career. That being said, saying goodbye to teammates and friends in [San Jose] … it’s been bittersweet.”
Burling said he’s looking forward to playing for Marsch, who was a veteran the young Burling would ask for advice as the pair would carpool to and from work with Chivas.
“It’s something Jesse talked about [in a phone call Wednesday]: ‘We’re building from the ground up, we want you here, we think you’re a big piece of the puzzle we’re building,’” Burling said. “I appreciated that; to hear him say that was reassuring to know.”
The Quakes currently have only two center backs currently under contract: Opara, the No. 3 overall selection from the 2010 SuperDraft, and veteran Jason Hernandez. Doyle said the club is working to re-sign Canadian international Nana Attakora, who arrived via trade from Toronto FC in July, and looking for more depth beyond that - a wise precaution given that Opara has gone down with the same broken foot in each of his two MLS seasons.
“If we knew that Ike was going to be 100 percent healthy, you’d say, ‘OK, we’re set,’” Doyle said. “Given his track record, we have to plan on him maybe not being there, even though he’s healthy right now.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org