Perhaps the only person more shocked than San Jose Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop after Thursday’s news that midfielder Simon Dawkins would be going on loan to Aston Villa instead of returning Stateside was Simon Dawkins himself.
“Yeah, totally [a surprise],” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com of his reaction to Villa’s last-minute move to bring Dawkins in on loan from Tottenham Hotspur. “For Simon as well. I spoke to him and he [said he] didn’t hear anything and all of a sudden gets a phone call: ‘You’re going to Villa.’”
The Quakes had put in what they considered a strong bid to secure permanent control of Dawkins, who resurrected his injury-stalled Spurs career with a combined 14 goals while on loan in San Jose during 2011 and 2012. Instead, they’ll have to figure out what to do without a 25-year-old who provided a dangerous attacking presence on the Quakes’ left wing during the most prolific portions of their Supporters’ Shield run last year.
San Jose still remain interested in Dawkins when his loan ends in June – “Obviously, we’d love to have him at any time,” Yallop said – but must craft a Plan B for at least their first 18 MLS matches. The club brass, in Arizona for training camp, are scheduled to meet tonight to discuss their options.
“I’ve been looking for players with the thought in mind if Simon doesn’t sign,” Yallop admitted. “I’ve got a few guys I’ve lined up. Myself and John [Doyle, Earthquakes general manager] and the coaching staff will sit down tonight and go over all the scenarios of the players we’ve looked at, what sort of [salary] cap implications come into play.
“Yeah, we do have some money under the cap now. But maybe we’ll strengthen another area.”
Last season, San Jose made a point of having their key figures in place well before the season began, spending money early to help build cohesion. Yallop indicated the team, with 13 of its 14 most-used players from 2012 back, would be more willing to utilize the summer transfer window this time around.
“In the end, the team that trots out on the field is going to be a good side come March,” Yallop said. “Unless we get the right player, we’re not just going to fill that spot, blow the money on someone we’re not sure about. If we use the money [now], we’re going to take our time and make sure it’s the right guy.”
To Yallop, Dawkins’ loan represents the continuation of an accelerating trend: The willingness of English Premier League clubs to mine the MLS ranks in search of good value.
“We think that nobody knows about our players over here,” Yallop said. “They obviously do, with Geoff Cameron and Brek Shea and Kei Kamara. Now Simon. There’re scouts everywhere, and I think any chance a team like Aston Villa has a chance of taking a player that’s a good player in our league, they’re going to do that.”
Even though a successful stint from Dawkins might put him out of San Jose’s reach in the future, Yallop won’t bet against it happening.
“I feel that Simon’s a good player, so good players tend to play well anywhere,” Yallop said. “If he gets an opportunity, I think he’s going to do well. … Looking from afar, he’s got the tools, for sure, to be good enough to play in the Premier League.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.