Having already taken care of the most pressing items on their to-do list earlier in the winter, the San Jose Earthquakes will enter the 2012 MLS SuperDraft on Thursday unencumbered by positional needs.
So, assuming the Quakes keep the No. 6 pick for themselves, it’s more a matter of finding someone who can contribute immediately, rather than finding someone can fill a certain role.
“Contributing is everything, whether it’s a lot of minutes or a few games,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop told MLSsoccer.com shortly after touching down in Kansas City on Wednesday from the league’s five-day Florida combine. “We’re not just picking a player to not even dress. We want to pick somebody who’s going to be involved.”
Since crashing out of last year’s playoff chase, the Quakes have already added Honduran internationals Víctor Bernárdez and Marvin Chávez at center back and right wing, traded for holding midfielder Jean Alexandre and winger Shea Salinas, and also brought back free agents Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon — the latter’s signing being announced Wednesday by the club.
That means Yallop and general manager John Doyle will have more freedom to do whatever they want with the sixth selection.
“It does [free us],” Yallop said. “Instead of sitting here and not having addressed a few of the issues we had — like, say, speed — we now can maybe pick a position where the player looks good, or he’s a little bit better than the other guys around that pick we have. It does give you a bit more leeway. We’re going to pick the best available.”
The only area where the Quakes haven’t been able to come up with a reasonable solution is one of the toughest to fill; San Jose have yet to bolster their group of attack-minded central midfielders during the break. With Simon Dawkins’ return from Tottenham Hotspur still not finalized, the Quakes might look for someone in the mold of UCLA’s Kelyn Rowe or UC Santa Barbara’s Luis Silva, assuming either of them fall to the No. 6 spot.
Then there’s always a possibility San Jose could trade their first pick, as they did last year, shipping the No. 15 slot to Columbus in exchange for Lenhart, who had five goals and three assists in only 1,163 minutes with the Quakes.
Yallop, however, said the team is not looking to deal down or out of what he considers to be a “solid” draft pool. San Jose also hold the No. 25 and 33 overall picks, the latter coming from Colorado as payment for Quincy Amarikwa.
Regardless of whom San Jose net on draft day, the biggest question with training camps set to open next week is whether Dawkins will be present. The 24-year-old Spurs youth product with an injury-riddled past impressed mightily in his first MLS season, providing six goals and two assists in 26 matches (19 starts).
But Tottenham are making a bid for their first top-flight English crown since 1961 — moving level with second-place Manchester United through a 2-0 win over Everton on Wednesday — and their roster is in flux with the transfer window about to open, so the Quakes’ club partner seems in no rush to finalize another loan agreement for Dawkins.
“We’re hoping it goes through,” Yallop said. “We’re just still waiting on word. It’s a little frustrating right now because we’d obviously like to get something done, and we want Simon to come back. I think for Tottenham, they want to know if he can play on their first team.”
Assuming Dawkins returns, he’ll have another able-bodied target man to play off in the form of Gordon. The Quakes acquired the 30-year-old midway through last season from Toronto FC, but he made only two appearances — scoring a point-saving goal against Portland in the process — before pre-existing injuries forced him to undergo season-ending surgery.
“I’m glad he’s re-signing,” Yallop said of Gordon. “I just felt very sorry for the club and the fans that they didn’t see the best of Alan [last year]. Once we get him 100 percent healthy, I’ve worked with Alan and I’ve seen him over the years, and he’s a good center forward in our league that can score and set up guys.”
In other roster news, Yallop shot down recent reports of a potential move for another Tottenham youngster, 19-year-old midfielder John Bostock. Yallop said the teams talked but couldn’t come to terms: “That’s probably a dead deal.”
Additionally, Yallop said second-year goalkeeper David Bingham was pulled from the US Under-23 squad due to a pulled quadriceps muscle and should miss a few weeks.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com