Anibal Godoy, Alberto Quintero hope to help "Panamaniac" ranks grow in MLS

San Jose Earthquakes midfielders Anibal Godoy and Alberto Quintero admit that upon seeing the Twitterverse anoint them as the #Panamaniacs for the first time back in May when the two combined for a goal against the Houston Dynamo (see video above), the nickname took a little while to register.

“I didn’t know what it was,” Godoy said, laughing a bit. “But then I remembered, there was the cartoon Animaniacs, from Warner Bros. Then I started to understand -- Panamaniacs, Animaniacs -- and I made the connection. I liked it and I think it’s good for us.”

The Panamanian brotherhood has been more than just good for the Quakes in 2016 -- it’s been electric at times.

Godoy arrived in San Jose in the middle of the 2015 and immediately ignited the Quakes to a 6-3-3 finish that lifted them into playoff contention for the first time in a couple of seasons.

“I think he’s done great things here,” Quintero said of Godoy’s time in San Jose. “I paid attention to how the coaching staff and the fans fell in love with Anibal. I saw he earned the love and respect of his teammates with hard work. That’s what I noticed.”

From afar, the Quakes had noticed Quintero as well. The midfielder was playing in Mexico and had a close friendship with Godoy since 2009, the year Godoy joined Quintero on the Panamanian national team.

“I tried to give a little information to the coaching staff because they already liked him a lot,” Godoy said of San Jose’s recruitment of Quintero. “Right now, Panamanians really want to come to MLS. They’re asked and the majority do not hesitate [to say yes] knowing that we’re doing a good job, and other Panamanians who play here -- Roman Torres [Seattle Sounders], Blas Perez [Vancouver Whitecaps], to name a few -- have done a good job. And that opens doors for other Panamanians. We’re doing a good job with the national team as well, and those things hold merit when trying to come to a league as important as MLS.”

The addition of Quintero to San Jose’s roster has ignited a heightened interest from Panamanian fans both here in the US and abroad.

And it’s the chemistry and friendship San Jose’s Panamaniacs share that has the Quakes playing well and the Central American country taking notice.

“In Panama, once the country knows you’re becoming a member of a team in a league as important as MLS, they automatically become fans,” Quintero said. “We have a lot of fans on social media who follow us and become fans of the San Jose Earthquakes. And the truth is, if we keep playing at the level we are now, we’re going to keep opening the door for a lot more Panamanians.

"I think Panama has grown at the national team level and the truth is I think it’s important that more Panamanians come to MLS because there are too few of us at the moment and I think that we’re going a good job.”

It’s a job on the pitch that is good enough to keep San Jose in the hunt for a playoff spot for the first time since 2012, including a key matchup against California Clasico rivals LA Galaxy in the MLS Heineken Rivalry Edición Especial on Saturday (10 pm ET, Univision). And it’s a brotherhood off the pitch that fuels the Panamaniacs’ drive to open more doors for fellow countrymen.

“We have a lot of years now with a good friendship,” Godoy said, “and we hope that’s reflected on the pitch.”

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