It took four years, but the San Jose Earthquakes believe they’ve finally found a No. 10 worthy of that mantle.
The Quakes announced on Thursday that they’ve signed playmaking Colombian midfielder Tressor Moreno, a diminutive 33-year-old who will be counted on to boost the club’s offensive output. San Jose scored 40 goals last year, tied for 14th in MLS, as they failed to reach the MLS Cup Playoffs.
Asked if he thought Moreno was the club’s first legitimate No. 10 since the franchise was reborn in 2008, Quakes coach Frank Yallop didn't hesitate.
“I think so,” Yallop told reporters on a conference call. “Simon Dawkins is a good soccer player, but more of a forward. This guy looks to pass the ball. ... It’s the first time we’ve got [a player] who looks to do what No. 10s do.”
Namely, that’s unlock opposing defenses, something the Quakes have had difficulty doing, notwithstanding Chris Wondolowski’s 34 goals over the past two years.
“Maybe we’re not playing great, and then all of a sudden something special breaks down a defense and then somebody’s in,” Yallop said. “I think that’s what [Moreno’s] going to bring us. He’s going to bring us that unpredictable play in the final third by springing players and obviously using his vision and all the things he’s good at to do that.”
Last year, Moreno played in Chile for Santiago Wanderers, scoring one goal in 16 appearances. His longest and most productive stint with a single club was from 2007-10, when he put up 17 goals and 14 assists in 110 matches across all competitions for Mexican Primera División side San Luis FC.
Despite Moreno’s age and size (listed as 5-foot-8 and 160 pounds), Yallop is convinced that the Colombian international – he’s made 32 appearances, although none since 2008, for los Cafeteros – can make it through a physically taxing 34-match MLS schedule.
“I think he has the tools and the mentality [to withstand MLS play],” Yallop said. “He’s played around in different countries and seen some tough-tackling people. I’m sure he’ll adapt quickly.”
In addition to the passing skills, Moreno’s addition gives the Quakes another piece of insurance in case Dawkins, who played for San Jose last year on loan from club partner Tottenham Hotspur, does not come back.
Yallop retains some hope that the club can get Dawkins – whom Spurs included Thursday in their 25-man roster for the remainder of the English Premier League season – on a second loan stint after a tryout at Dutch club FC Twente did not yield a deal for the 24-year-old. The final decision rests with Spurs, who have Dawkins under contract for another 18 months.
Dawkins played wide left in the final stretch of last season, so the Quakes could put him on Moreno’s flank if he does return.
“Simon is one of those players that is the energy and rhythm of the team,” Yallop said. “When he gets the ball, he moves it quick, he’s very sharp, all those things that I like in players. Tressor can play that but also can do the unpredictable thing with a pass. He can find people in the final third that made good runs.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org