SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Befitting a man of his faith, Clarence Goodson jumped on a question about his role as a potential midseason savior for the San Jose Earthquakes’ playoff hopes.
“Well, there’s only one savior, and that’s Jesus Christ,” Goodson said Thursday after completing his first training session with the Quakes. “That’s not me. I’m just trying to come in and help and do the best that I can.”
San Jose are hoping Goodson’s best will help resurrect a defense that is currently tied for 16th among 19 MLS sides, allowing an average of 1.5 goals per match. Goodson clearly comes in at or near his peak, form-wise, having helped anchor the US national team defense throughout a victorious Gold Cup tournament.
“Obviously, adding someone of Clarence’s quality and pedigree and experience is great,” Quakes interim coach Mark Watson said. “It was probably the easiest decision we’ll ever have to make, in terms of whether we wanted to have him on board. He’s got all the qualities you’re looking for, so we’re really excited."
Goodson, who started his professional career with FC Dallas in 2004, returns to MLS after spending six seasons split between Norway and Denmark. The 31-year-old says he’s a better player not just as a result of growing up, but also for having had that international experience.
“I was just a guy working hard and trying to find my way,” Goodson said of his pre-Scandinavian self. “I’ve become more of a seasoned player, more professional, more of a leader. Hopefully, that will show.”
With 42 caps and four major international tournaments under his belt, Goodson comes in with one of San Jose’s most impressive résumés – and the knowledge that all those press clippings won’t matter if the Quakes continue to leak goals.
“It’s a new team, so everything has to be proved still,” he said. “The things that I’ve done in the past, and the things that I’ve done with the national team, that doesn’t matter here. ... We’re all going to be judged on the performances we have with San Jose.”
Goodson said he already engaged in some bonding sessions with new teammate Chris Wondolowski during the Gold Cup, and raved about the “workman’s mentality” of the Quakes.
“That’s the type of player that I try to be, as much as possible,” Goodson said. “Maybe I don’t have all the physical characteristics others do, but I can give everything. That’s the easiest thing to do.”
From Watson’s perspective, Goodson’s mental game more than makes up for any perceived deficiencies in his athleticism.
“If maybe sometimes he looks unspectacular, I feel that it’s spectacular in the sense that he’s in the right spot and he makes his job look easy,” Watson said. “You don’t see him having to make a lot of last-ditch tackles and recovery stuff. ... I think the best quality a center back can have is kind of a very composed, effortless game where nothing really happens. That’s a sign of someone who knows the position and is usually in the right spot.”
Goodson is clearly match fit, given his Gold Cup work, but Watson wouldn’t say if he’ll start against Chivas USA on Saturday (10 pm ET, UniMas). The Quakes defense – with Justin Morrow partnering Victor Bernardez inside and newcomer Jordan Stewart on the left flank – held up fairly well in a 2-1 win against Portland last weekend.
That said, Quakes fans are undoubtedly salivating at the notion of Goodson teaming with Bernardez – a pairing that could almost immediately become one of MLS’ strongest duos.
“Me and Vic are going to need some time to try to gel together, to get to know each other’s tendencies,” Goodson said. “But we’ve both played at a high level, so hopefully it will be a quick transition. Certainly, that’s what’s needed now with our team and the points that we have, and where we want to go.”