SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes have featured an unsigned midfielder with former England youth international experience in training this week, but it's not who some Quakes fans want to see the most.
Simply put, it’s not Simon Dawkins.
In fact, the man in question is Ritchie Jones (above, with Bradford City in 2012), a 26-year-old product of Manchester United’s academy who played most recently with Rochdale AFC of England’s third-tier League Two. He’s one of multiple players the Quakes had scheduled to examine before the stunning departure last week of longtime head coach Frank Yallop.
As the dust settles on Yallop’s replacement by former assistant Mark Watson, it’s not clear how much of a splash the Quakes are willing to make in terms of midseason reinforcements. At 3-6-6 in MLS play and with a CONCACAF Champions League debut looming, San Jose could seem to use the help of some new blood, yet Quakes president David Kaval preached caution when discussing the club’s plans for next month’s transfer window.
“We hope to find the right balance of a player that can make an impact for us on a long-term basis,” Kaval told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s walking the fine line and making sure you make the right move that doesn’t handcuff the club, but adds talent in the right areas.”
In practical terms, that means the Quakes favor splashing out on someone in the mold of Victor Bernardez. Center back wasn’t San Jose’s area of biggest need when the Honduran international came available two winters ago, but the terms were too alluring to let a player of his talent escape.
“Sometimes you get a player that’s just available at the right time that could be a long-term fit for the club,” Kaval said. “And those are the times you can kind of bank that, put that person on your roster. We felt like, ‘Hey, this is a guy we can have for three or four years, can make a real impact for the club. ...’ [It’s] kind of like drafting the best player available. It just makes your club better.”
As for Dawkins, a fan favorite at Buck Shaw Stadium who scored eight goals last year for San Jose while on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, the chances don’t seem all that great for a return. Kaval confirmed that Dawkins’ rights remain the property of Spurs — so even though Aston Villa chose not to retain Dawkins for 2013-14 after a loan spell earlier this year, there is no prospect of a free transfer back to the United States.
In the meantime, it falls to Watson to sort through the possibilities, all while making his own adjustments to the internal pecking order as his debut looms Saturday in Colorado.
“If we do decide to bring someone in, he’ll be the right guy,” Watson said. “There won’t be many changes, if there are any. ... This team is not a broken team. This is a good team that’s had a difficult start to the season.”