SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Earthquakes are putting the band back together.
Well, one key piece, at least.
The Quakes announced Wednesday that English-born Jamaican international Simon Dawkins -- who scored eight goals for San Jose’s 2012 Supporters’ Shield-winning side -- will be returning to the Bay Area in 2016 as a Designated Player.
The 28-year-old attacker, who spent two seasons with the Quakes on loan from Tottenham Hotspur, signed Tuesday night on a free transfer from Derby County to help perk up an offense that scored 41 goals last year, tied for 17th out of 20 MLS clubs.
“By adding Chad Barrett and now by adding Simon, I think this … puts more goals in our roster,” Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear told reporters on a conference call Wednesday. “I think it’s something that we probably needed from last year.”
During his first stint, San Jose watched the Spurs youth product shed his injury-prone tag -- and bag a total of 14 goals with three assists -- in two MLS seasons but were unable to keep Dawkins in the US. Quakes general manager John Doyle, however, never lost contact with him.
“Every opportunity I got a chance to, when I was over in Europe, I would stop by and talk to Simon, talk to his father,” Doyle said. “This year, I flew to Jamaica and met with Simon, to kind of see where he was. I spoke with Sam Rush, the chairman at Derby, last year about Simon, just gauging the interest. Finally we were able to grab him. It’s been a long process. During that time, we’ve signed other players, we’ve looked at a lot of players. It’s just that the timing was right with Simon. We were able to get him and bring him back to San Jose, and we’re looking forward to having him.”
Dawkins is “hungry to play,” according to Doyle, and with good reason; after making 34 league appearances last season in England’s second tier, Dawkins had fallen out of favor to the point where he made just one, non-league, appearance for the Rams this season.
“He said he wanted to get in here and play and have a regular spot,” Doyle said. “So I think we have a hungry player and a player that’s excited to come back to San Jose. His quote to me was, he had some 'unfinished business' in San Jose.”
During his initial stay with the Quakes, Dawkins was converted into primarily serving as an inverted left winger by then-coach Frank Yallop. But it’s no certainty that he’ll wind up there under Kinnear, who mostly used Shea Salinas -- another right-footer -- in that spot during 2015.
“I think he can play out wide or through the middle,” Kinnear said of Dawkins. “What that creates is competition. It creates a battle for minutes. You also have to look at this year, with the amount of internationals that are going on, the possibility of Copa América inclusion with our players. There’s going to be some players missing, as we know, so you have to create as much depth as possible. … You always want competition. You always want depth in your team. I think Simon provides that. I think it’s going to add a little bounce to preseason. I’m looking forward to it.”
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Doyle said the Quakes have begun working on getting Dawkins’ P-1 visa with hopes of having him in San Jose before the start of training camp.
Who will be joining Dawkins at that point is not yet settled. With Innocent, Matías Pérez García and Chris Wondolowski in the fold, the Quakes currently have four DPs on the books. Although San Jose could simply use Targeted Allocation Money to buy down the salary-budget hit for one member of that quartet, Doyle said the club will evaluate all options before the March 1 deadline for roster compliance.
“It’s a fluid time for us right now,” Doyle said. “We’re looking at all kinds of different options on how we’re going to do it. We do have the funds, with Targeted Allocation [Money], to be able to keep all the players. That’s something that Dominic and I are actively looking at and have talked about since the end of last season. We have time. We want to just make sure it makes sense to us.”