SANTA CLARA, Calif. – In the estimation of San Jose Earthquakes coach Mark Watson, recently acquired Portuguese winger Yannick Djalo is not quite at the level of fitness needed to go for a 90-minute match.
And considering the Quakes' struggling offense, the talented 27-year-old’s readiness can’t come soon enough.
“I don’t know if he’s 90-minutes fit yet, but he’s getting close,” Watson said.
So if Djalo, who made his MLS debut with an 11-minute stint in the Quakes’ last match, a 2-1 loss to the New England Revolution on March 29, does take the pitch against the Columbus Crew on Sunday at Buck Shaw Stadium (3 pm ET; UniMas), it’s a good thing his impact could come in a matter of seconds.
With speed to burn, Djalo – the product of the same Sporting Lisbon academy program that launched the careers of Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Figo and Nani – could provide another avenue of attack for the Quakes, who have struggled at times this season to quickly convert regained possession into offensive pressure.
“He’s a very crafty player, very skilled and there’s a different dynamic that he can bring to the table,” Quakes captain Chris Wondolowski told MLSsoccer.com this week. “He’s that type of player and has that skillset that he can do that, kind of make something out of nothing. He’s a special player.”
Working against the idea of starting Djalo is the fact that incumbent right midfielder Cordell Cato has put forth some strong performances dating back to the second half of last season, and Shea Salinas on the other side has been San Jose’s most consistently dangerous player in 2014.
“We’ve got good wide players already,” Watson said. “[Djalo] just adds to that.”
- Get the latest Quakes news at SJEarthquakes.com
That said, in five matches across all competitions this season, the Quakes have scored only once following a lengthy buildup – their lone goal against the Revolution. And that tally had a bit of luck about it, as the final ball in from Cato took a deflection off Revolution defender Jose Goncalves before Wondolowski gobbled up the tightly-angled rebound opportunity from just inside the 6-yard box.
To nip their season-opening winless streak in the bud, San Jose could use some more instant offense in the form of faster counterattacks – something that Watson insists his club is already looking to utilize.
“If we can go forward early, I think we try to do that,” Watson said. “It’s assessing the risk of the situation. We don’t want to do it every time and [be] successful three out of 10 times in terms of creating an attack. You want to make the right decision.”