As Jeremy Ebobisse embarks on the next stage of his career with the San Jose Earthquakes, the 24-year-old forward is hoping a change in scenery will give him something he didn't have during his run with the Portland Timbers: Consistency.
During his time in Portland, where he broke into the league as the No. 4 overall pick in the 2017 MLS SuperDraft, Ebobisse was never consistently used as the team's feature center forward, instead spending much of his time on the wing while the Timbers deployed a rotating cast up top. He managed to produce in spite of that, putting up 26 goals and eight assists in 88 MLS games (54 starts).
But with Thursday's announcement that Portland traded him to San Jose for a hefty sum of General Allocation Money ($1.167 million), Ebobisse said he's looking forward to competing for an every-game role at what he and the Quakes both feel is his best position.
"I think I'm at a pretty pivotal stage in my career where I've spent the last three years getting to play in different positions, getting to play in different [systems], getting to play under a couple different coaches as well," Ebobisse told media on Friday. "But now I think it's important that I work really hard in refining myself at one of those positions. That's a philosophy that the [San Jose] organization shares as well. I'm really excited to see what I can do with this responsibility and the trust that's placed in me."
For San Jose technical director Chris Leitch, Ebobisse's MLS track record was only part of the equation. The Duke University product was one of Portland's most popular players off the field during his time with the club, emerging as one of the league's most foremost voices on social justice issues.
Throw in the fact that Ebobisse has shown he can produce in MLS at a position of need for the Quakes, and Leitch said the deal was a no-brainer. He's also a once-capped US men's national team player, appearing in a January 2019 friendly against Panama.
"I think Jeremy is almost an obvious one. I think for any organization, bringing in young, up-and-coming players that are also proven is very attractive," Leitch said. "So Jeremy's profile, the fact that he can play the No. 9 position, that he's been involved in various national teams in his young career, the fact that every time he steps on the field you can tell the difference he makes – for those reasons and many more it made sense for us.
"Look, I think you want to go after players you have a good sense that can help the organization now," he continued. "We feel very strongly on day one he's going to be able to help this team, he's going to help us score goals, he's going to help us in the build-up. He's a leader, both on and off the field. As I say, there's a lot of reasons we feel good about Jeremy and how he can contribute to our success now."
Since Ebobisse is in the rhythm of the 2021 season, he's ready to hit the ground running. Leitch said he sees no reason why he won't be available as soon as the club's next match, which is this Sunday against in-state foe LAFC at PayPal Park (7 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+). His impact, at least as it's designed, should also get more out of central playmaker Javier "La Chofis" Lopez and wide players Cade Cowell and Cristian Espinoza, rounding out the Quakes' attack.
Until then, Ebobisse said he's focused on getting acclimated to his new surroundings and learning the team's tactics, with Almeyda running one of the most unique systems in MLS. He joins as San Jose chase a Western Conference playoff spot and are unbeaten in six (one win, five draws).
"As far as Matias' system, I'm getting to know it more and more, but what I recognize and what I need to be mindful of is the intensity first and foremost," Ebobisse said. "You can't execute on anything out there unless you start with the intensity.
"And then it's just attention to detail: The crispness of your passes, the counter-movements to unbalance the defenses, all these little things that go into the greater game plan. Today was only my first day, but I'll continue to learn on the fly. I'm just trying to take in as much information as possible, so that I'm ready whether it's Sunday or as soon as I'm trusted to step onto the field."