SAN JOSE, Calif. — For the second straight season, the San Jose Earthquakes have gone into the summer transfer window looking to add some juice to their attack, only to come out of it with a defensive-minded midfielder as their highest-profile acquisition.
In 2015, that midfielder was Panama international Anibal Godoy, whose calm on the ball and incisive passing helped the Quakes average 1.55 goals per game over the final 11 matches of last year, a jump of nearly 50 percent from their mark of 1.04 in their previous 23 games.
Starting Friday, San Jose fans will see if El Salvador captain Darwin Ceren can have the same kind of impact on this year’s Quakes team.
San Jose acquired Ceren from Orlando City on Wednesday, along with salary-cap space, in exchange for Designated PlayerMatias Perez Garcia and the use of an international slot through the end of this season.
“I like his tenacity,” Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear said of Ceren on a conference call Wednesday. “He’s a good passer of the ball. Speaking with people who’ve been around him, they say his attitude from day to day is fantastic. . . . I like the player, I think he covers a lot of ground. He’s a good tackler, closes space down really well. But on the other side of it, he’s a very good passer of the ball and that’s going to help us.”
Ceren, 26, would seem to be duplicative to some extent of Godoy and fellow incumbent Fatai Alashe, who have been the first choice pairing at the base of Kinnear’s midfield since Godoy’s arrival last August.
Kinnear admitted the move was necessitated in part by the continuing injury problems besetting second-year MLS midfielder Marc Pelosi. Pelosi underwent knee surgery in February to alleviate chronic tendinitis but still has not played a minute this year. Kinnear said that Pelosi underwent another procedure Tuesday — an injection in the area of the tendon meant to stop the inflammation — and is expected to miss another two-to-three weeks at a minimum.
“It kind of sped up the need for someone at that position,” Kinnear said of the latest twist for Pelosi. “We weren’t exactly targeting Darwin, but when his name came up, he was a player that everybody agreed they liked.”
Without Pelosi, the Quakes have had to shuttle other players in and out of the center of midfield whenever Alashe or Godoy were suspended, injured, on international duty or pressed into duty elsewhere on the pitch, as Alashe was at center back earlier this summer.
With Ceren, Kinnear said, the rest of the Quakes’ front six players — typically Quincy Amarikwa and Chris Wondolowski up front, with Simon Dawkins and Alberto Quintero on the wings — can retain their normal roles. The consistency will presumably help San Jose’s attack, which currently ranks 17th out of 20 MLS sides at 1.10 goals per game.
Despite his propensity to draw fouls in areas that generated dangerous free-kick opportunities for the Quakes, Perez Garcia was unable to find regular time under Kinnear this season after notching two goals and seven assists in 27 appearances last year. The 31-year-old Argentine hadn’t started since July 1 and went unused in the Quakes’ last three matches.
Although the Quakes were not expected to make another move inside this transfer window, they can now use the salary-cap space they received from Orlando City to replace long-injured striker Steven Lenhart, who has not appeared in a regular-season MLS match since Sept. 14, 2014. The club could bring in a forward who is out of contract and therefore free to sign at any time, although they have to do it quickly; the salary relief will only last until the end of the season.
“We’re looking to add another forward to the team,” Kinnear said. “Our attention will turn to trying to bring in a forward sometime soon.”