Valeri Qazaishvili - San Jose Earthquakes - Vitesse Arnhem

SAN JOSE, Calif.—Outside of rewarding Chris Wondolowski for his years of service and bushels of goals, the San Jose Earthquakes’ history with Designated Players has been checkered, at best.


Geovanni, the club’s first DP, provided one goal and three assists in 777 regular-season minutes. Matias Perez Garcia scored during his 2014 debut – against archrival LA Galaxy, no less – but was traded to Orlando City SC less than two years later.


Now general manager Jesse Fioranelli has made his first DP signing since taking over this winter, adding Georgian international Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili from Dutch side Vitesse.


Fioranelli thinks he has found the attacking solution that has eluded the club for the better part of a decade. But what makes him the right man to end the Quakes’ run of DP futility?


“Because I think that we’ve gone through a very thorough process of trying to identify the type of player that this team needs, based on how we play, based on the players that we have to our disposal at this moment and based on the objectives that we have set out from the beginning,” Fioranelli told reporters Thursday, after the deal was announced. “We wanted to sign a player that knows how to attack the goal, score goals, produce goal-scoring opportunities, nothing else but going where it actually hurts. That is a quality you find in few players, and that was a quality that we were looking for to be able to reinforce our team.”


The Quakes could certainly use any help Qazaishvili – who had a combined 19 goals over his last two seasons for Vitesse – might offer on offense. Despite the offseason additions of Albanian international Jahmir Hyka on the wing, and forwards Danny Hoesen from the Netherlands and Marco Ureña of Costa Rica, San Jose have barely seen an uptick in scoring this year; after a league-worst 0.94 goals per game in 2016, the Quakes are scoring 1.00 this season, a mark which ties them for 18th out of 22 clubs.



Qazaishvili first wound up on Fioranelli’s radar several years back when both men were coming up through the ranks in Europe, and eventually ended up at the top of the Quakes’ short list culled from “dozens of markets and hundreds of players,” in the GM’s words.


And while the hope is Qazaishvili will help unclog San Jose’s offense for years to come, Fioranelli cautioned against pigeonholing him simply as an attacking central midfielder.


“We have signed almost a striker, a second striker that has a lot of presence in midfield, but really dominates when it comes to imposing himself in the last third,” Fioranelli said. “We realized that, centrally, we had a margin for improvement when it came to creating goalscoring opportunities. … [Qazaishvili is] a player that can bring that sense of being unpredictable, because you will have difficultly being able to read him.”


San Jose coach Dominic Kinnear will have to figure out a way to slot Qazaishvili into his formation, which has often been a 4-4-2 but has also morphed into a 4-2-3-1 or even a 3-5-2 in the recent U.S. Open Cup victory against San Francisco Deltas.


Kinnear has put Hoesen on the wing at times in an attempt to maximize San Jose’s offensive production, but neither he nor Ureña have been wildly successful; each has a goal and two assists in a combined 1,873 minutes.


Fioranelli said the Quakes front office worked diligently to finish their scouting and negotiations with an internal mid-June deadline in order to have their third DP – alongside Wondolowski and Simon Dawkins – ready to join the fray when the transfer window opens on July 10.


Qazaishvili will be asked to help lift a Quakes team that hasn’t made a playoff appearance since 2012.


“I do believe that we have something special in this team,” Fioranelli said. “I do believe, having Vako on board, he has that sparkle. He has that excitement. He has something to give to this team that we’ve been looking for. We are now in a confident position to say, ‘OK, we’re going to be stronger and we’re going to aim for the playoff qualification.’”