When Tuesday's friendly between the San Jose Earthquakes and Salvadoran side CD Aguila kicked off, all eyes were on newly signed defender Fabio da Silva. Ever since the defender signed with the team three weeks ago, fans have been eager to get a look at the Brazilian in a live match, and while Tuesday's encounter marked his second exhibition appearance in five days, it was his first at Buck Shaw Stadium.
After 90 minutes, the verdict was that da Silva certainly took some steps in the right direction during his side's feisty 0-0 tie with Aguila, one in which the hosts finished with 10 men following the ejection of midfielder Shea Salinas. But all agreed that there is more work to be done.
Manager Frank Yallop was decidedly cool in his assessment, stating that "[da Silva] did OK. It's never easy when you don't speak the language and it's your first game for the team. We'll assess what's going on and see how he get's on."
The Brazilian had both good and bad moments. The visitors twice created clear breakaways on through balls through the heart of the Quakes defense, and there was one occasion where da Silva was robbed of the ball deep in his own end, only for Aguila forward Francisco Jovel to shoot over the bar. But the San Jose defender did look strong in the tackle, and was generally sharp with his passing.
"It was good overall for me, especially to get some minutes on the field and play," said da Silva through an interpreter. "It felt good. I feel a lot better physically after playing two games, and I hope to get better every day."
That said, Yallop indicated that he's not inclined at the moment to break up the partnership of Jason Hernandez and Brandon McDonald that has helped the Quakes record their only two clean sheets of the season.
"They ain't coming out any time soon, really," said Yallop about Hernandez and McDonald. "It will take a while to break into those two.
"We did the deal [for da Silva] two months ago, and it took so long to get the paperwork [done]. In the meantime McDonald has played well, taken his chance and done fine."
As for the game itself, the Quakes out-chanced the visitors on the night, although a draw was a fair result. Both Ryan Johnson and Quincy Amarikwa spurned wide open opportunities, but they either missed the target, or were stymied by Aguila keeper Benji Villalobos.
San Jose 'keeper Andrew Weber was just as effective at the other end, although Aguila substitute Nelson Reyes squandered a clear chance in the 68th minute, dragging his shot wide after beating the Quakes offside trap.
But the most eyebrow-raising moments of the night involved Salinas, a player as mild-mannered as they come. The midfielder was booked within 10 seconds of entering the match at half-time for clattering into Aguila defender Mauricio Perla. He was then ejected with 13 minutes to go for a studs-up challenge on Villalobos.
"The first tackle, I was going in trying to change the pace of the game," said Salinas. "The first half I felt like we didn't really press them that much. That's what I was trying to do, and then I missed the ball and caught the guy's leg.
"And then later in the game, I was sliding for what I thought was a 50-50 ball. Then I knew I wasn't going to get it, but I kept sliding because the field was wet ... and then I'm out of the game."
If Salinas' ejection was surprising, so was the response of Yallop, who didn't seem at all upset over the sending off.
"At least [Salinas] went for the ball and didn't chicken out of it, and then he stood up and shoved a few guys," said Yallop. "I don't mind that really. He showed some will to win in the game in a game that was a practice match."
Salinas and his teammates will need to bottle that aggression for another nine days. The Quakes won't return to league play until Sept. 18 when they host Colorado.
Jeff Carlisle is a contributor to MLSnet.com.