San Jose Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop said before the MLS SuperDraft that he wanted someone who could contribute immediately. With his speed and ability to play wide, UC Santa Barbara junior Sam Garza fit that bill.
The Quakes used the sixth overall selection to take Garza, a 22-year-old member of Generation adidas who totaled 21 goals and 14 assists in three collegiate seasons split between the University of Denver and the Gauchos.
In the second round, San Jose picked up Washington midfielder Jacob Hustedt in the No. 25 slot and nabbed South Florida goalkeeper Chris Blais at No. 33.
“We targeted Sam right before we started [the draft],” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com at the conclusion of Thursday's SuperDraft. “We thought he’d be there for us, so we’re happy. It was a good haul.”
Garza’s quickness made him attractive to the Quakes, who were left all too often last season without a top gear. And it didn’t hurt that Garza, who worked mostly on the wings in 2011 for UCSB, used one of Yallop’s favorite words in describing himself.
“The good thing is, I’m versatile,” said Garza, who grew up as a forward and primarily played there during his sophomore year for the Gauchos. “I think maybe at the next level, my best position will be out wide, but I love to play up top.”
Right midfield for the Quakes is presumably occupied by Honduran international Marvin Chávez, recently acquired from FC Dallas. San Jose’s left wing, however, is in flux; Simon Dawkins, who consistently started there in the final weeks of last season, is not guaranteed to return on another loan deal from Tottenham Hotspur, and even if he comes back, he’s more of a central midfielder by nature.
San Jose picked up Shea Salinas from Vancouver to help address the wing situation, but he isn’t considered an automatic selection, opening the door for Garza.
“He’s very quick and very smooth on the ball,” Yallop said of Garza. “He’s a good assist guy and a good finisher when he gets in.”
Hustedt was a darkhorse in most mock drafts, but impressed the club during their private combine sessions. The Quakes especially likes his ability to attack defenders one-on-one, another thing the squad lacked last year.
Blais, meanwhile, will get a chance to replace third-string 'keeper Andrew Weber, whose option for 2012 was declined.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.