SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Even as midfielder Matias Perez Garcia’s potential availability for the San Jose Earthquakes’ Saturday showdown against the Seattle Sounders remains murky, where the new Designated Player fits in the Quakes’ new attack became clearer Friday as the Argentinean was formally introduced by the club.
The 29-year-old said he would like to stay on the right flank, as he did to great effect over the past two years with Argentinean side Tigre, and Quakes coach Mark Watson seems more than amenable to the idea – especially as it could help speed Perez Garcia’s integration with a San Jose team still sitting in last place in the Western Conference.
“He’s primarily been playing on the right-hand side, coming in and adding numbers to midfield,” Watson said. “The one thing that is pretty reassuring is that, tactically, the way we do things is exactly how it was [for Perez Garcia] in Argentina. So I think there’s a level of comfort there and familiarity, that tactically there’s not a huge change.”
Putting the left-footed Perez Garcia on the right wing, opposite Shea Salinas, would give the Quakes a pair of inverted wingers to help flood the center of midfield as they continue to try to move away from their former reliance on long crosses into the penalty area. The right-footed Salinas showed how dangerous he could be cutting in from the left wing in scoring a nifty goal to kick off the Quakes’ 5-1 victory against Chicago last week; Perez Garcia, Tigre’s leading scorer, could bring even more punch from the right.
“He’s got a great touch, great vision and can find players pretty easily,” Salinas said of Perez Garcia. “So I’m excited to see what he’s going to be able to do in an actual game.”
Watson said he wasn’t sure that Perez Garcia, whose last season with Tigre ended in May, was ready for a full match but felt he was in pretty good shape – certainly enough to play some part as San Jose try to knock off the league-leading Sounders in front of an anticipated 45,000 spectators at Levi’s Stadium (10:30 pm ET, NBCSN, stream at NBCSports.com, TSN2 in Canada).
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But there is a twist: The death Wednesday of Julio Grondona, president of the Argentine Football Association, was complicating the release of Perez Garcia’s International Transfer Certificate, according to a Quakes official. Perez Garcia was preparing as though he’ll be able to play, Watson said, even though the situation remained up in the air as of Friday afternoon.
Whenever he debuts, Perez Garcia will add to the impressive ranks of Argentinean attackers in MLS. Perez Garcia said he has looked at the success of countrymen Federico Higuain of Columbus, Javier Morales of Real Salt Lake and Diego Valeri of Portland before deciding to turn down a pair of Argentine powers and move north.
“After talking to my family, we all decided [the US] was the place we wanted to come to,” Perez Garcia said through a translator. “Yes, we did have options potentially to go to River Plate or to Racing, but in the end, we really wanted to come to the United States and experience this country.”