SANTA CLARA, Calif. – If a player has to be traded in the middle of an MLS season, they could do considerably worse than landing with the Supporters’ Shield leaders.
For midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy, though, his happiness at joining the top-of-the-table San Jose Earthquakes stems from something even more basic than that.
“I think this is a team that plays really nice [soccer],” Ballouchy told MLSsoccer.com after making his Quakes debut with 62 minutes Tuesday against Swansea City in an international friendly. “When you see the midfielders that they have, and how they click with their forwards, it’s just a very simple game. They play and move, and that will be fun for me. I’ve been playing and moving since I was a kid, so that’s what I enjoy the most.”
Ballouchy flew cross-country just in time to face the English Premier League side after being officially acquired by the Quakes on Monday from the New York Red Bulls in exchange for an international slot and conditional draft pick in 2013.
The 29-year-old midfielder went back today to put his East Coast affairs in order. He should be back in time to rejoin San Jose – who have an open date this weekend – when they reconvene on Aug. 6.
San Jose coach Frank Yallop, who started Ballouchy on the left wing but feels he can play anywhere across the midfield, gave the Moroccan-born former collegiate All-American at Santa Clara a passing grade for his work against Swansea.
“I think he probably would have enjoyed playing a little more late on, when we were on top a little bit, but just in general, I thought he was good on the ball, like I know,” Yallop said. “He keeps it well. He’ll get up to speed [as to] the way we play. What we really do is try to move it as quick as we can and don’t let it settle. I think once he gets used to the speed of that, he’ll be good.”
The Quakes weren’t that successful at moving the ball in the first half against Swansea. San Jose’s two best scoring chances each derived from forcing a Swans turnover relatively deep in their end. At least it presented an opportunity for Ballouchy to get a jump start on his crash course of all things Quakes.
“I flew in last night, didn’t know anyone’s name or anything, and we kind of went over tactics quickly,” Ballouchy said. “For the most part, I just tried to keep it simple and fit in as much as possible, as quickly as possible. It was fun to be back here. The fans are great, the players seem like a great group. I can’t wait to get to know everyone.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.