SAN JOSE, Calif. – After having solid success mining the Montreal Impact for midfielder Joey Gjertsen before the 2010 season, the San Jose Earthquakes are hoping to hit a free-agency double.
Quakes general manager John Doyle confirmed Thursday that the club has signed Tony Donatelli, an attack-minded midfielder with experience on the right wing and the center of the park, to help fill the hole left by their quartet of departed forwards and midfielders: Arturo Alvarez, Eduardo, Geovanni and Cornell Glen.
Donatelli scored 19 regular-season goals and added 12 assists in five seasons with the Vancouver Whitecaps (in their pre-MLS days) and, more recently, the Impact. He had seven goals last year in Montreal, his best season with the club.
“I think I’m a two-way midfielder, but I have the ability to score some goals,” Donatelli said. “My history has shown that. I think with the year [Chris Wondolowski] had, they’re definitely looking for options to help them score and take the load off them. Hopefully I can provide some of that.”
Perhaps most impressively to Doyle, Donatelli scored three times in eight matches during the Impact’s run to the quarterfinals of the 2008-09 CONCACAF Champions League.
“Tony’s proven he can score against good teams,” Doyle said. “When they play in the CONCACAF, he’s played and done well. We’ve scouted him for two or three years, we like him. We’ll see how he does.”
[inline_node:327310]For Donatelli, joining the Quakes is the culmination of a five-year dream. After four years at Temple University, he was selected by Houston in the third round of the 2006 MLS Supplemental Draft, but couldn’t crack a roster already laden with talented midfielders.
“They thought it would probably be better for me to go down to the USL at the time and get some experience there,” Donatelli said. “I had a few successful years, and now it’s the right time to move back.”
Donatelli could have potentially been a part of Montreal’s ascension to MLS in 2012, but he worried about the Impact’s status as a member of the NASL – a league which recently lost its provisional Division 2 status.
“Coming to MLS has been a goal of mine, but with the uncertainty there, it made it a little bit easier to make this ultimate decision,” Donatelli said. “To have that uncertainty the year before [moving up] wasn’t something I really wanted to be involved with. I’m really happy with the opportunity here in San Jose.”
In San Jose, Donatelli will be reunited for a third time with Gjertsen, who was a teammate in Vancouver and Montreal.
“When Joey made the move, it made it a lot easier of a transition and [helped] communication between the two sides,” Donatelli said. “It makes it an easier move for me.”
Donatelli said he played primarily as a wide midfielder on the right last season and as an attacking central midfielder, where he’s most comfortable. Doyle sees him as a potential withdrawn forward as well.
“We have a lot of versatile guys,” Doyle said, mentioning Wondolowski, Scott Sealy and Ryan Johnson. “He’s in that mix of creative, hard-working players.”
There is playing time up for grabs at all those spots, especially wide right, where Alvarez put in the bulk of his 1,210 minutes last season.
“I wouldn’t say [Donatelli] is a burner, but I think he’s smart,” Doyle said. “He plays a good 1-2, gets off the ball. He thinks quick. I mean, Arturo has quickness, but I don’t think he crossed but one ball [last] year.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes