SANTA CLARA, Calif. — As elusive as Jaime Alas might be on the pitch, he proved even harder to pin down off of it for the San Jose Earthquakes.
Two years after coming to the Quakes’ attention with his strong performance for El Salvador at the 2011 Gold Cup, Alas is finally set to join San Jose on a six-month loan deal from Rosenborg BK, the league leaders in Norway’s top flight.
Coming in the wake of adding defenders Clarence Goodson and Jordan Stewart, the Alas deal provides another midseason boost to the playoff hopes of San Jose, who sit eighth out of nine teams in a stacked Western Conference.
“I think he’s wanted to be here for a while,” Quakes interim coach Mark Watson said of Alas, perhaps best known to US fans as the player who helped knock the Americans out of the 2012 Olympic field with an injury-time shot that Sean Johnson botched for a game-tying goal during the final qualifying match. “It’s been a two-plus-year process and for whatever reason, it hasn’t worked out. So I think he’s really excited. I think playing here would probably suit his style a little bit better.”
Watson was an assistant to then-coach Frank Yallop when the pair saw Alas and La Selecta face Mexico to open their 2011 Gold Cup schedule. The Mexicans eventually won 5-0, but Alas’ poise on the ball and attacking verve stuck with Watson and Yallop.
“He stood out to me right away,” Watson said. “He had a good soccer brain, as they say. He just played the game the right way and made the right decisions. I thought he had good feet and I thought he was pretty dynamic going forward, and whipped some crosses in.”
The Quakes brought Alas into their training camp in Ventura this February, and though the 23-year-old was a good fit in many ways, the economics didn’t work out — until now.
“Probably 10 times,” Watson said when asked how often the club had given up on the deal. “When you scout and look at players, you hope to sign them right away, but there’s so many issues involved that you’re prepared to make it — if you really like the player — a long-term process ...
"You’re doing your homework perpetually, knowing that if a situation comes up, you’ve got someone in mind and you’ve done your work. It’s not something that you have to panic with, find players and make decisions on them in a week.”
Watson said the club is hoping Alas will receive an expedited P-1 visa and be available for the Quakes’ next league match, a home game against the Portland Timbers on July 27.
Whenever he arrives, the Quakes will get a player who could provide the best replacement available for departed left winger Simon Dawkins, who returned to Tottenham Hotspur this winter following two successive year-long loan deals. Watson allowed that, as a left-footer, Alas’ most natural position is wide to that side — although he could play anywhere in midfield.
The move might also bring a close to the Quakes’ big-ticket dealings in the summer transfer window. Asked what room remains under the salary cap, Watson replied, “I wouldn’t say there’s a lot left, but there’s still things that can be done.”
Even if this is the last move, the Quakes appear — once Goodson, Marvin Chávez and Chris Wondolowski return from Gold Cup — fortified for their playoff chase and CONCACAF Champions League play, which begins next month.
“When everyone’s back and healthy, we’re pretty happy with our squad,” Watson said.