Capping off what has become their biggest offseason talent haul since reforming in 2008, the San Jose Earthquakes announced Tuesday that they have reached a loan agreement with Tottenham Hotspur to bring back midfielder Simon Dawkins for a second MLS season.
Dawkins, a 24-year-old former English youth international, had six goals and two assists in 26 appearances with the Quakes last year, providing a shot in the arm for an offense that finished tied for 14th in scoring among 18 MLS sides. He’s expected to arrive next week from London, where he’s been training and playing in reserve games for Tottenham Hotspur, San Jose’s club partner in the UK.
“We’re real excited to get Simon back,” San Jose general manager John Doyle told reporters in a conference call Tuesday. “I thought he had a good freshman season for us and [we’re] looking for more from him in 2012.”
With Dawkins’ return and the additions of other big names such as Central and South American internationals Marvin Chávez and Víctor Bernárdez (Honduras) and Tressor Moreno (Colombia), the new Quakes look as well-stocked as they’ve ever been at the start of a season – which was foremost among the goals Doyle and coach Frank Yallop focused on this winter.
So, is this the best Quakes team of the last five years?
“I think, in looking at it ... yes,” Doyle said. “We have quality players two deep in every position. You never know what happens in the season, but yeah, I feel real confident in the players we have on the field.”
Although Dawkins didn’t arrive until just before the Quakes’ season opener in 2011, this year’s negotiations were much more protracted. Last year, Spurs were happy to let Dawkins go and prove himself after injuries had derailed his career. This time around, the club was more interested in looking at potential sales; Dawkins was on trial last month with FC Twente, but the Dutch team took a pass, giving San Jose’s chances new life.
“Last year’s [negotiation] was really easy,” Doyle said. “We went to Tottenham, we liked the player, the player was ours. It was nice. This year, I went to Tottenham in November, sat down and met with [director of football] Darren Eales, and said, ‘Hey, we’d like to have Simon.’ We put an offer forward, they said, ‘OK, well, here’s our offer.’ And the offer was something we couldn’t do at the time.”
In the meantime, the Quakes covered their bases in case Dawkins did not prove to be available. In addition to the trio of internationals, San Jose brought in other veterans such as forward Sercan Güvenisik and midfielders Shea Salinas and Jean Alexandre, and re-signed or extended key components such as Steven Lenhart, Alan Gordon, Chris Wondolowski and Jon Busch.
The influx of new faces leads plus Dawkins’ return leads to a logical question: Where will the Englishman will play for the Quakes?
A naturally right-footed player, Dawkins finished last season on the left wing for San Jose. The former youth-side winger showed well there, and that could be the most logical place to start him this year as well, since the Quakes have added Moreno as an attacking midfielder in the center of the pitch and Chávez on the right wing.
Yallop admits that second forward is probably Dawkins’ best position, based his penchant for incisive give-and-go plays, but that spot is the domain of Wondolowski, who has bagged 34 goals over the last two years.
“I think that Simon can play on the left side and had success there for us,” Doyle said. “[But] I wouldn’t say that that’s a certainty. Simon can play second forward, he can play forward, he can play in the middle of midfield. He’s a very versatile player, which is great for us. I think we have a much deeper team than we’ve had in the past and that’s a good thing and a bad thing for a coach.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.