SAN JOSE, Calif. – With 17 days remaining before the summer transfer window shuts, the MLS-leading San Jose Earthquakes suddenly find themselves with some room under the salary cap thanks to the departure of attacking midfielder Tressor Moreno.
The question now is what to do with it.
Should the Quakes, sitting atop the standings on 37 points after a franchise-best 11-4-4 start, look to add one piece with all the cash they can muster as they chase the Supporters’ Shield and plot a potential MLS Cup run?
Should they look to fill in some cracks, depth-wise, around a core that already features the likes of league-leading scorer Chris Wondolowski, ever-dangerous winger Marvin Chávez and impressive newcomer Víctor Bernárdez?
Or should they save the cash, knowing that young players who have stepped up to make critical contributions this year – such as defensive stalwarts Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour, the latter named to the MLS All-Star First XI with Wondolowski – are going to be looking for raises?
Not surprisingly, San Jose general manager John Doyle was giving nothing away at training Tuesday.
“If the right thing came up, yeah, you would want to grab it, but you don’t want to do something just for the sake of doing something,” Doyle said. “I think the players that we have have done a great job, and we’re playing well.
“You would probably be more inclined to add depth at this point. We have some young players that for next season, their salaries are going to go up. You could use the money from that standpoint, also. There’s probably 100 different scenarios and ways to use it. We’ll figure out what’s best for the organization.”
What was best for San Jose in the meantime was to cut ties with Moreno on Monday. The former Colombian international came aboard in January to high hopes he could fill the role of a classic playmaking No. 10, but wanted to cut short his MLS stay after becoming disenchanted at being mired so far down coach Frank Yallop’s pecking order.
Among the Quakes, Moreno’s salary ranked second behind only that of Wondolowski. Taking him off the books will give previously cap-constrained San Jose room to maneuver in the next two-and-a-half weeks – although Doyle said it wasn’t as much as fans might think.
The Quakes still have a payment due to Tottenham Hotspur for Spurs loanee Simon Dawkins, Doyle said, and last month San Jose added veteran defender Jed Zayner to give themselves some flexibility at the outside back spots.
“We were kind of a little bit up against it,” Doyle said. “We were borrowing a little. But we have a little bit of [salary cap] space, a little bit of space on the roster, and so you look.”
Yallop said the club was fielding plenty of calls from agents with clients on offer. MLS teams have until July 27 to work out transfers for players currently with another club; they can sign players after that if they are out of contract entirely.
“We’re looking at two or three positions,” Yallop said. “For us, it’s about strengthening the squad in areas we feel are important. A lot of players are getting presented to us, but it’s got to be the right fit for us. And they’ve got to make a difference for us.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.