San Jose Earthquakes ready to upgrade "underperforming" squad with creativity from abroad

SAN JOSE, Calif. – San Jose Earthquakes president David Kaval held an impromptu half-hour press conference for reporters Monday and acknowledged what has become evident during his club’s four-game losing streak: The Quakes need help in midfield.

When any cavalry might be arriving is another question altogether.

Kaval said the Quakes are looking at “seven or eight” possible targets during the summer transfer window, and mentioned specifically the need for an attacking maestro to awaken San Jose’s somnambulant offense, which is currently tied for last in MLS in goals per match at an even 1.00.

“We feel that we need a stronger midfield and we need more creative players, because that’s the way the league is going,” Kaval said. “We’re looking for the right player in that area. And hopefully, we will find them at the right time.”

Don’t expect the Quakes to announce a splashy signing before they travel to New York this weekend to face the Red Bulls (7 pm ET, MLS LIVE) on the backs of four consecutive defeats, however.

“You can’t make a rash decision just because you’re on a four-game losing streak,” Kaval said. “I think when you start doing that, I think you start making decisions that compromise the success both in the medium- and the long-term. And we’re not going to do that.”

In recent years, the Quakes have found a majority of their most successful players either via trade from other MLS clubs (Chris Wondolowski, Jon Busch, Shea Salinas, Alan Gordon, Steven Lenhart) or from the league’s draft (Steven Beitashour, Justin Morrow).

Nevertheless, San Jose is focusing on importing talent at this time, according to Kaval.

“One of the key pieces of the puzzle, obviously, is bringing in players from other countries,” Kaval said. “As you’ve seen in the league, the most successful attacking players, the ones with the most creativity, have come usually from other leagues and other countries, whether it’s Argentina or Brazil or Portugal.”

Kaval claimed that the team is willing to release “additional monies” with its new stadium coming on-line in 2015, but also talked up the club’s success at finding “million-dollar players for less than that” on loan deals, citing influential former midfielder Simon Dawkins and current winger Yannick Djalo.

Given that the Quakes have yet to fully replace Dawkins’ contributions after his 2013 return to Tottenham Hotspur, that might seem to be a riskier – if less expensive – way to keep up with teams securing permanent moves for high-priced engines such as Michael Bradley in Toronto.

“The thing is, the league has gotten more challenging over the last two years,” Kaval said. “The amount of spending has gone way up. Just getting the stadium is getting us back to the baseline. Now we’re saying, ‘Hey, instead of signing players who might cost $500,000 a year, we’re looking at players who are in a higher bracket, maybe $1 million a year, because that’s kind of where the league is going.’”

Kaval cautioned against the idea of spending for spending’s sake. But he does hope there’s a residual benefit to whatever moves the Quakes end up making – a rising-tide-lifts-all-boats effect that could help spark another second-half run for San Jose, who currently sit last in the Western Conference at 16 points, nine behind fifth-place Vancouver, albeit with a game in hand.

“We feel that if we add a couple of these key guys, some of the players that we have this year that have been underperforming will also raise the level of their game as well,” Kaval said.

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