Of all the players set to play Saturday in San Jose’s preseason finale, Antoio Ribeiro may have the most to gain. The Earthquakes currently have 26 players in its training camp, which means that if the current roster limitations remain in force under a new collective-bargaining agreement, the club would have to let two of them go.
According to San Jose general manager John Doyle, Ribeiro, a 29-year-old midfielder who joined the team midway through last season, and third goalkeeper Mike Graczyk are among the most likely to fit that bill.
“I think the young guys are always [on the roster bubble], with the exception of Ike Opara,” Doyle said Wednesday, referring to the Earthquakes’ new Generation adidas draft pick. “I think Mike Graczyk and Antonio Ribeiro, they could be on the outside looking in.”
Ribeiro was the last man into the Earthquakes’ preseason game against Houston on Wednesday, and only got that chance after veteran Simon Elliott had to come off after suffering a studs-high tackle to his right thigh by the Dynamo’s Richard Mulrooney.
“We’ll wait until we have to do something, because all the guys have deserved to be here. I would have let them go before now. I think that we’re not afraid to do that, that’s for sure,” said coach Frank Yallop, referencing the release of defender Aaron Pitchkolan earlier this month. “Honestly, I’ve been pleased with the squad. I wish we could keep everybody, but that’s not the rule, so we’ll find out what happens in the next couple of weeks about what the roster looks like.
The thing that may save Ribeiro is the murky visa status of Omar Jessey. The Gambian teen’s pace on the outside and powerful striking ability would both be valuable on this team, which is why the Quakes are attempting to secure him a visa for the season. But the process is no sure thing, and if San Jose ultimately can’t find a way for Jessey to stay in the country, it would open the door for Ribeiro to stay.
As for Graczyk, who has yet to make his first-team MLS debut, the question is whether the team wants to carry three ‘keepers or only two. San Jose has established starter Joe Cannon and heir-apparent Andrew Weber on hand, and Doyle said the team is leaning towards only two goalies when the regular season begins.