SAN JOSE, Calif.—Aside from new Designated Player Simon Dawkins, the San Jose Earthquakes’ biggest signing of the winter might be a 28-year-old who is being asked to make a professional leap in terms of the quality of his opposition.
That MLS represents the highest club level for Alberto Quintero in at least six years – and maybe ever, depending on how you rate Spain’s second division – did not keep the Quakes from pursuing the Panamanian international to provide speed on the flanks.
“He’s a good enough player to start in this league,” said San Jose coach Dominic Kinnear. “If he’s under the radar – maybe he is, I don’t know – but I’ve always thought it’d be a good idea to try to bring him to MLS.”
With the addition of Dawkins and Quintero, whom the 'Quakes officially introduced last week on a year-long loan from second-division Mexican side Lobos BUAP, San Jose bolstered their corps of primary wingers, giving Kinnear more options on the outside along with incumbents Sanna Nyassi, Matias Perez Garcia and Shea Salinas.
“When the season was over, we wrote down some names about guys we wanted to try to bring to this team,” Kinnear said. “And both guys are playing for us. That’s nice that we can have some good ideas and follow through and be able to bring those guys here.”
Kinnear has had his eye on Quintero for years; the former Houston boss said the Dynamo tried to sign him “maybe four years ago” but things never came together.
Instead, Quintero bounced around Spain, Panama, Colombia and Mexico before Kinnear and assistant coach Steve Ralston watched him go 90 minutes for Panama against Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier in November. That performance helped convince them that Quintero would be a good fit for the Quakes, regardless of his club resume.
“I just look at how he plays for Panama,” Kinnear said. “I always kind of gauge it, ‘How is he against Mexico? How is he against the USA? Or Costa Rica?’ You could consider those to be the top three teams in CONCACAF, and in all the games I’ve seen him play (against those sides), he’s always played well.”
Quintero didn’t need much convincing to join Panamanian teammate Anibal Godoy in San Jose.
“The level of the league has been growing a lot,” Quintero said. “That’s one of the reasons why I wanted to come here … Every player wants to play at the highest level possible in that country. Playing in the Liga Ascenso [second division] in Mexico is not where I wanted to be. Coming here was a goal of mine. When I heard that San Jose was interested in me, I was very happy and excited to come.”
Godoy, a longtime friend off the pitch, vouched for Quintero’s character in the locker room. Now he might need to do some protecting on the field for the fleet winger, who is listed at 5-foot-6 and 132 pounds.
“It is a physical league, but I’ve gone against many national teams that have physical players – the United States, Trinidad & Tobago, Jamaica, Haiti,” Quintero said of MLS. “They all have players that are tough and strong and fast. I’m used to that. The question is, how do you adapt to that when you come in? I’m ready to adapt to that and show my football, what I can do.”