SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes were unsuccessful in their attempts to keep Portuguese winger Yannick Djalo in the fold.
But their consolation prize might turn out to be a good deal.
Veteran Portuguese center back Paulo Renato, signed by the Quakes late last month, stepped immediately into San Jose’s starting lineup for the season opener against FC Dallas. And the 27-year-old’s calm presence helped the Quakes get within just a couple of minutes of what would have been only the club’s second shutout in its last 16 regular-season matches.
Renato and fellow newcomer Marvell Wynne helped returning Quakes Victor Bernardez and Shaun Francis keep a dangerous Dallas attack off the board until the 92nd minute, when Blas Perez headed home a blast from Moises Hernandez after goalkeeper David Bingham botched a clearance well off his line.
Prior to that moment, Renato had been responsible for one of the Quakes’ biggest saves on the night, clearing Perez’s shot from 12 yards off the goal line in the 22nd minute. The former Sporting Clube de Portugal academy player betrayed no sense of nervousness in his MLS debut.
“I’ve always been very calm in my nature, as far as footballing,” Renato told reporters this week through a translator. “It’s very important to have this sort of attribute when you’re playing central defense. So I hope that I can bring that experience and calmness to the team. . . .
“When I saw the position of [Perez], I immediately knew where the ball could end up, the highest percentage, and went to that area.”
Renato was an unheralded potential addition when he came over for an extended trial during preseason. When the Quakes made the decision to add a fourth center back to the mix of incumbents Bernardez, Clarence Goodson and Ty Harden, that opened the door for Renato, who first got in contact with the club after learning of their interest from his agent – who also happens to represent Djalo.
A conversation with Djalo – the mercurial winger who spent 2014 with the Quakes on a loan from Benfica and was sent in January to play for Russian top-flight side FC Mordovia Saransk – helped convince Renato to take a chance, even without a firm deal in place.
“He came in for preseason, which was a big thing,” Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear said. “If he’d been, ‘sign me or not,’ we’re probably walking around the other way. But he came in, he fit in with the guys. We wanted to make sure he was involved in Tucson [during the club’s preseason trip], because we wanted to see how he matched up with MLS players. I thought he came through all those games looking pretty confident and pretty good.”
With Goodson practicing fully this week after suffering from nagging foot trouble for much of the preseason, Renato’s time as a starter might be at an end for the moment. But his cool presence has been registered by teammates – and leaves the impression that the Quakes won’t suffer unduly if either Bernardez or Goodson are unavailable for significant stretches.
“I think he’s a smart player,” Wynne said of Renato. “He has a good defensive awareness. I like him on my backline.”