The San Jose Earthquakes were 16th out of 18 MLS teams last season at winning games in which they scored the first goal. Of all the things San Jose’s brain trust think center back Víctor Bernárdez will bring to the Quakes, an ability to help better that mark might be the most important.
The Quakes announced Wednesday that they had signed Bernárdez, a 29-year-old stalwart of the Honduran national team coming off a three-year deal with Belgian powerhouse Anderlecht.
“He’s going to add experience to the backline,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “Being a mainstay for the Honduran national team, it gives him experience and the knowhow to see games out, manage games. I’ve seen enough of him now to know he’s athletic for a big man and seems to have those good leadership qualities that will be good for our team.”
Yallop was loath to draw direct comparisons for fans who haven’t seen Bernárdez play, but likened his skills to those of FC Dallas’ George John.
“He’s tall, he’s 6-2, he’s rangy, but he’s got some pace,” Yallop said. “He’s imposing, aggressive, reads the game well. I’m hoping he adjusts quickly to MLS, because it’s not an easy league. He has all the traits to do that.”
The move gives San Jose another much-needed body at the center back position; the Quakes lost Bobby Burling to Montreal in the Expansion Draft last month and still haven’t reached agreement to bring back Canadian international Nana Attakora.
Yallop expects that Bernárdez, with his 52 caps – including a key role in Honduras’ run to the 2011 Gold Cup semifinals – will step immediately into the Quakes’ lineup.
“I would think so,” Yallop said. “We brought him in to play.”
Jason Hernandez has been a fixture in central defense for San Jose, but talented youngster Ike Opara has suffered back-to-back season-ending injuries during his two MLS seasons. Adding Bernárdez means that the club can be careful with its handling of Opara as he comes back with his twice-broken right foot.
As far as Attakora goes, Yallop said the 22-year-old and the team were still talking, but nothing seems imminent.
“It’s obviously about contract talks and what his future holds,” Yallop said. “There are certain salary cap issues we have all the time. I’ve said all along I like Nana and I’d like to keep him, but it’s about the right deal and right thing for both parties – the team, on what he’s going to cost on the cap, and Nana, of what he actually wants and wants to get out of his career.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.