Matías Pérez García announced, becomes third Designated Player in San Jose history

2 Comments
[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E3B7tVGnWlQ]

Monday’s rumors have come to fruition, something that should be met with delight from fans of the San Jose Earthquakes. Becoming the third designated player in franchise history, 29-year-old Argentine Matías Pérez García is on the verge of joining the 2012 Supporters’ Shield winners, with only the arrivals of his visa and international transfer certificate standing in the way of a new life in Northern California.

San Jose announced the signing on this afternoon, with the now former Tigre playmaker set to join current DP Chris Wondolwski as focal points of Mark Watson’s attack. In the process, Pérez García, who has recorded 13 goals over the last two Primera División campaigns, gives the Earthquakes’ head coach the ability to give the team’s attack a much-needed facelift.

“We’re very excited to sign Matias,” Watson said, via San Jose’s website. “He adds a very experienced, technical attacking quality that will be a great complement to the squad we already have. We look forward to having him join the team.”

[ RELATED: San Jose about to bring in its own South American playmaker ]

Complement is a great word for it. Typically operating behind a lone striker, Pérez García had become Tigre’s most-reliable scorer, partially because of the rotating cast in front of him. Functionally, he operates as a playmaker, giving San Jose the type of Argentine maestro that’s been so successful in places like Salt Lake (Javier Morales), Columbus (Federico Higuaín), and Portland (Diego Valeri).

“It’s a monumental moment for the club,” general manager John Doyle said. “Matias is a dynamic, attacking player that will create chances for teammates as well as himself. I’m very excited to see the impact that he can have on this league for years to come.”

According to earlier reports from ESPN Deportes, Pérez García’s transfer fee could be $2 million. San Jose, per league policy, did not reveal details of the move.

We’ve already talked about some of the signing’s implications (link, above), but before the transaction became official, we skipped many of the on-field implications. With Pérez García confirmed, we can talk about the impact on San Jose’s squad – an influence that could evolve into a turning point in how the Earthquakes go about their soccer.

Unless Watson institutes a huge change in formation, you can expect Wondolowski to start up top with Pérez García in support. Yannick Djaló’s versatility will allow him to move wide, opposite Shea Salinas. Sam Cronin and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi should man the middle, and when Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon are available, Watson will have the option to go with more typical number nine up top, potentially dropping Djaló to the bench.

It’s a more flexibility team than Watson had yesterday, giving the team hope of creating more scoring opportunities without relying on set pieces and crosses (the Earthquakes are next-to-last in the league in open play goals). While their ability to generate chances that way can remain a strength, the accumulation of players like Pérez García and Djaló give Watson another option.

Perhaps as importantly, it will improve perception, something that’s important when you’re moving into a new venue. Soccer purists can argue all they want about the virtues of a more pragmatic approach, but at some point, people want to be entertained, and while not everybody enjoys the same style, people tend to enjoy it when the more skillful, technical side comes out. To this point, San Jose’s strengths have lied in other areas, a balance that becomes more difficult to justify when pragmatism does not lead to results. Ultimately, pragmatism isn’t always that practical.

With Pérez García, San Jose may try to strike a different balance, but will it lead to better results on the field? Unfortunately, when bringing in a player that has so little experience outside one league, it’s hard to assess how they’ll adapt; however, if Pérez García can assimilate quickly, his record (and, the record of similar Argentines that have come north) suggests he’ll have a significant impact. The Earthquakes should be able to pass Chivas USA.

As far as the rest of the West, that’s more difficult to say. When you look at the rosters of teams one through seven, they still look better than San Jose’s, and given the Earthquakes have failed to transcend that talent over the last two years, it’s hard to overlook at how they stack up at central midfield, fullback, and potentially on the wings (depending how their first choice XI shakes out). When teams as talented as Vancouver and Portland are having trouble cracking the West’s top five, you’re reminded how competitive the West’s become.

Even if San Jose can’t get back into this year’s playoff race, this move should pay benefits in the future. The Earthquakes are moving into a new, larger venue next year, and while Pérez García’s name won’t see tickets, the product he’ll help produce could. Even if that doesn’t get San Jose back into the postseason, it will move the team forward.

Vidal rips Ronaldo ahead of Confederations Cup semifinal

LLUIS GENE/AFP/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Chile hopes to make a statement on Wednesday when it faces EURO 2016 champions Portugal and Ballon d’Or champion Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 2015 and 2016 Copa America champions can lay claim to another inter-confederation title with two more wins in the 2017 Confederations Cup, beginning with the semifinal in Kazan.

[ MORE: Chelsea sells Traore ]

Chile finished behind Germany in Group B but didn’t lose a match and only allowed two goals. That’ll be tested by Portugal and its seven goals in three matches.

Two of those goals came from Ronaldo, but don’t tell that to Arturo Vidal. Chile’s hard-edged midfielder doesn’t like him much.

From Goal.com:

“Cristiano is a smart ass,” he told reporters. “For me he does not exist.

“I have already told my Bayern Munich team-mate Joshua Kimmich that we will meet again in the final.”

Germany will have to take care of Mexico to make that happen, though we have a feeling a certain smart ass will have a thing or two to say before it’s all said and done.

Vidal has spoken loudly of his desire to get Chilean teammate Alexis Sanchez, a former Barcelona man, at his club Bayern Munich. If Ronaldo is on the market, this isn’t a great recruiting tool. Ah, jokes.

Trio of Crew players in Ghana roster to face USMNT, Mexico

CARL DE SOUZA/AFP/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Ghana’s team to face the United States men’s national team on Saturday in East Hartford will look somewhat familiar to fans of Major League Soccer.

Columbus Crew players Harrison Afful, Mohammed Abu and Jonathan Mensah join David Accam of the Chicago Fire, and Gershon Koffie of the New England Revolution on a unit with Kwadwo Poku of the NASL’s Kwadwo Poku.

John Boye, Asamoah Gyan, and Mensah are the only three players from the loss to the USMNT in the 2014 World Cup.

[ MORE: Full FIFA-Qatar report leaked? ]

Like the U.S., this is a less than full-strength squad. Missing are a number of Black Stars standouts, with Andre Ayew, Jordan Ayew, Afriyie Acquah, Daniel Amartey, Emmanuel Agyemang-Badu, Christian Atsu, Jeff Schlupp, and Baba Rahman not with the team.

Saturday’s match is the last USMNT outing before the Gold Cup begins on July 8 in Nashville against Panama.

Goalkeepers: Addo Joseph (Aduana Stars), Richard Ofori (Wa All Stars)

Defenders: Lumor Agbenyenu (Munich 1860), Harrison Afful (Columbus Crew),  Nicholas Opoku (Berekum Chelsea), Jerry Akaminko (Eskiserhispor),  John Boye (Sivasspor), Rashid Sumalia (Al Gharafa), Jonathan Mensah (Columbus Crew), Samuel Sarfo (Liberty)

Midfielders: Mohammed Abu (Columbus Crew, Isaac Sackey (Alanyaspor), Ofori Ebenezer (Stuttgart), Kwadwo Poku (FC Miami), Winful Kwaku Cobbinah (Hearts of Oak), Frank Acheampong (Anderlecht), Thomas Agyepong (NAC Breda), Gershon Koffie (New England Revolution)

Strikers: Asamoah Gyan (Al Alhi), Raphael Dwamena (FC Zurich), Majeed Abdul Waris (Lorient FC), David Accam (Chicago Fire)

Timo Werner abused in Germany but key to World Cup defense

Photo by Lukas Schulze - FIFA/FIFA via Getty Images
Leave a comment

SOCHI, Russia (AP) The abuse has followed Timo Werner for months, gathering pace as rapidly as the striker has amassed goals.

No German player was more prolific in the Bundesliga last season. No player was as ostracized.

But Werner is now a full-blown Germany international, scoring his first goals at the Confederations Cup on Sunday, and he could hold the key to the World Cup defense next year.

[ MORE: USMNT’s 23-man roster questions ]

That could require Germany supporters to forgive a player they jeered at during his first competitive game for Joachim Loew’s team earlier this month.

“Kobe Bryant has also been booed everywhere and he always been the best,” Werner reflected ahead of Germany’s Confederations Cup semifinal against Mexico on Thursday, seeing a kindred spirit in the basketball great. “I do not want to say that I am the best like him, but (the abuse) is a bit of an incentive.”

If playing for the ascendant but deeply unpopular Leipzig wasn’t bad enough, a dive in December by Werner provided a focal point for the animosity – jealousy, perhaps – toward the Red Bull-funded team.

The insults have even been hurled far from Germany, far from soccer stadiums. The dive won a penalty against Schalke, and provided Werner with one of the 21 goals that helped to propel Leipzig into second place and a Champions League debut next season.

“There was a dive, he made a mistake and he admitted it,” Loew said, “but he is very, very young player.”

And a potentially very important one for Loew at the World Cup in Russia next year. Germany’s striking options are being assessed at the eight-team Confederations Cup as Loew still seeks a long-term successor to Miroslav Klose as target man for the world champions.

[ MORE: Chelsea sells Traore ]

Werner opened his account for Germany on his fourth appearance, scoring twice in a 3-1 victory over Cameroon on Sunday in Sochi.

“Werner put in a lot of legwork,” Loew said. “He showed how dangerous he is and that he’s got a great nose for goal. Both of his efforts were very well taken.”

Werner’s rivals for a place in the squad next year include fellow squad newcomers Lars Stindl and Sandro Wagner. They are both close to 30, while the 21-year-old Werner has youth, strength and speed on his side. Even Wagner said he has “never seen such a good striker at that age.”

That’s a result of Werner fusing his pace with intelligence on the ball, mastering dribbling at high speed first with Stuttgart and then at Leipzig.

“There’s no recipe for it,” Werner said. “The quickest players just know how to do it automatically. I like to knock the ball three or four meters ahead of me when I’m on the counter or have space in front of me, that way I can increase the distance between a defender and myself.”

Such proficiency should help Werner win over fans beyond Leipzig. Time, he hopes, will heal the fractures, and there’s certainly support from his new international teammates.

“I wish him well because of the issues he has had to endure,” captain Julian Draxler told Germany’s ARD television.

Rob Harris is at http://www.twitter.com/RobHarris and http://www.facebook.com/RobHarrisReports

More AP Confederations Cup coverage: http://www.apnews.com/tag/ConfederationsCup

USMNT Gold Cup 23-man roster leaves some questions

Photo by Joe Petro/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Leave a comment

We have Bruce Arena’s 23-man United States men’s national roster for the Gold Cup, and there are more than a few surprises left out of the bunch.

Often a chance to experiment, those who thought this year’s Gold Cup roster would be one aimed at reclaiming glory with authority may be surprised to see the status quo.

Jurgen Klinsmann brought most of his big guns to the 2015 party — which didn’t go well for Brad Guzan and Co. — but Arena will roll into this summer’s tournament without most of his big names. There’s no Geoff Cameron, John Brooks, Michael Bradley, Christian Pulisic, Clint Dempsey, nor Jozy Altidore.

Those aren’t huge surprises, though who Arena neglected from his original 40-man short list is a bit of a shock to the system (Players can be called into the mix after the group stage, which is a fairly simple affair for the USMNT to navigate versus Panama, Martinique, and Nicagarua).

Arena is going with Brad Guzan, Sean Johnson, and Bill Hamid in a trio that fails to impress. Hamid does have a big crowd of fans who’d like to see him get a chance to assert himself as the future, and hopefully either Johnson or Hamid finds time between the sticks against a serious opponent like Panama. No surprise that Tim Howard and Joe Bendik didn’t leap into the trio (EDIT: This post initially questioned the omission of Jesse Gonzalez, but his one-time switch from Mexico to the USMNT has yet to go through).

We’ll ignore the omission of Danny Williams for the most part considering he was absent from the 40-man list, but he must have said something seriously awful to Arena or someone at U.S. soccer.

The group of forwards leaves little to complain about, as Juan Agudelo and Dom Dwyer very much deserve their chances to compete for playing time with Sounders star Jordan Morris, but the midfield provides some head-scratching. Gyasi Zardes may be a longtime Arena favorite, but the Galaxy man has been ice cold in MLS. The 25-year-old has a single assist in almost 1000 minutes of play this season, and that came back on April 8. Tommy McNamara has not lighting the league on fire and Chris Pontius and his six assists are 30 years old, so much of the grief should be directed at the 40-man again, but Zardes has to embrace this opportunity. And maybe it’s a way to help the Galaxy and Zardes get a little mojo.

As an aside, Wil Trapp is among leaders in several MLS passing stats, which leads me to believe Arena is going to play Dax McCarty and Kellyn Acosta a ton and doesn’t see much of a need for Trapp in this tournament, not ever.

Defenders Steve Birnbaum and Jonathan Spector were not rewarded with looks, though Graham Zusi was included in what must be an arm reaching out for USMNT experience. Birnbaum is leading MLS in aerials won per game and Spector is by far Orlando’s top rated player since returning from England. Yes, Spector is 31 but this is about still qualifying for next summer’s World Cup, not the 2022 cycle. Spare a thought for Matt Polster, who has been decent since returning from a knee strain. This is nothing against Zusi, a consummate professional who won’t kill the team by any means and will be an tremendous asset in leadership.

What about you? Any other gripes? Or do you love the bunch?