Sercan Guvenisik was signed by the San Jose Earthquakes on Jan. 26. Born in Donauworth, Germany, the 31-year-old striker holds dual citizenship in Turkey and Germany, and thus the distinction of being the first Turkish national to sign with Major League Soccer.
His track record through years of competing up and down the professional tiers in Germany, including six Bundesliga appearances for MSV Duisburg, alongside a pair of stints in Turkey, helped land Guvenisik in San Jose on trial last June. That week-long showing, capped by a two-goal effort in a 3-0 victory over the LA Galaxy in his Reserve League debut, in turn garnered a closer follow and ultimately an Earthquakes contract offer last month.
Guvenisik, who speaks Turkish, German and English, arrived on Sunday evening from Germany directly into Ventura, Calif., where the Quakes continue their second of three out-of-town segments of preseason training camp this week. SJEarthquakes.com caught up with him there during some down-time, to introduce him to the Quakes faithful.
SJEarthquakes.com: It’s been just a few short days since you joined the squad. What’s the atmosphere been like? How are things going so far?
Sercan Guvenisik: I was greeted in a much better way and by a much better team than I could have hoped for. Everyone welcomed me with open arms. Through two days of training, including a game, my teammates have been very helpful in answering any questions I may have. I’m very happy in that regard.
SJEQ: You came in off the bench for the last 28 minutes of Tuesday’s preseason match with the Houston Dynamo (a 2-2 tie at Oxnard Community College). What were your thoughts on the game?
SG: It was a difficult match for me, because I am still nine hours behind at the moment (with the time difference between Germany and California). The time difference and the jet lag really affect you. There’s also about a 30-degree difference in the weather. It was freezing in Germany. In that respect, I had some trouble during the game, in terms of my breathing and strength. But (head coach Frank Yallop) knew that, and we had talked about how the important thing was just to take my first steps (toward adapting to the team), so I think we all came away satisfied. In the coming days, I hope to gradually put on better performances and make everybody happy.
SJEQ: Walk us through your transfer story to the Earthquakes, from your trial period in early June, to when you agreed to terms in late January.
SG: I had come here last summer with the hope of signing then, but unfortunately, that didn’t happen. For it to happen now over the winter was a surprise to me. I wasn’t expecting it. I was in camp with my team in Germany (SC Preussen Muenster), and the second half of the season had started. (Earthquakes General Manager of Soccer Operations) John Doyle called in mid-January and indicated that they were still interested in me. I then had to sort out the contract situation with my team, but within a week or so, we signed.
SJEQ: What were some of the main reasons for you wanting to come to America and join MLS and the San Jose Earthquakes?
SG: I’d already been spending my vacations in America over the past few years. I’ve always been interested in MLS and followed it closely. I wanted to both live and play soccer in this country. My girlfriend is American and she lives in Florida, so it’s better for both of us for me to be in America. My wanting to come here was due to a combination of all of these factors.
SJEQ: Where are some of the places in the States that you have visited? Any favorites?
SG: I’ve been to Chicago, Miami, Los Angeles, Key West and Las Vegas. I like Miami very much as a vacation spot, with its beaches. Every place had its own charm. Chicago is a great city. I like it there a lot. I’ve enjoyed every place I’ve been to in America.
SJEQ: What kind of a soccer player did the Earthquakes sign in you?
SG: They got a player who is fast, who likes to score goals, wants to score goals, will help his teammates, and works hard to play defense as well.
SJEQ: Tell us about yourself a little bit so the fans can begin to get to know you. What types of things do you enjoy doing when you are away from the game?
SG: One of the first things I need to do here is to get to know my surroundings. I’d like to go around and explore what’s out there (in the Bay Area). At the same time, I like to listen to music and go to the movies. Movies generally come to Germany weeks or months after they open in America, so it will be nice to be able to watch them right away in their original language. I enjoy watching sports, like the NBA, tennis and American football. One thing I’d like to do, actually, is to check out a baseball game as soon as possible. I’ve never been to one in my life, but I know it’s the No. 1 sport in America, so I’m anxiously awaiting my first chance to go.
SJEQ: What are some of your goals and expectations for the 2012 season?
SG: From what I’ve heard and what I can see so far, they have put together a good team, so our goal first and foremost needs to be to make the playoffs. I believe that we can succeed in this. Whatever may happen beyond that will play itself out, and we will see what more we can achieve. It is important for us to get off to a good start, and things should fall into place from there.
SJEQ: There is a sizeable contingent of Turkish expatriates in the U.S., who have shown up in force during rare opportunities to see their own in action in the States, like in 1997 and 2004 when club side Galatasaray SK Istanbul played at The Meadowlands, and 2010 when Turkey played the U.S. at Philadelphia’s Lincoln Financial Field in front of 55,407. As the first Turkish player in MLS, and yourself a Turk who has grown up and lived in another country, what would you like to say to the Turkish community in America?
SG: First off, I’m very, very proud to carry this title. I would like to show Americans what kind of people and soccer players Turks are. As for my fellow Turkish citizens, I would like to say hello to them. And to my Turkish friends in and around San Jose, I of course want to invite them to come out to our games.
SJEQ: Are there any teams and players in world soccer that you admire and follow?
SG: Certainly, with how closely soccer is followed in Europe, and being able to watch all of the leagues there (on television). One of the leagues that I enjoy is the Spanish (La Liga), and Barcelona as a team, in particular. Their games with Real Madrid are always great. At the same time, I watch teams in England like Arsenal and Manchester United with admiration. When you say players, of course there is (Lionel) Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo, but for me, Messi is No. 1 in the world. There’s no player above him, in my opinion. Then there are also two players at Bayern Munich, (Franck) Ribery and (Arjen) Robben, who, for me, are also top-quality players.
SJEQ: What has been your most memorable moment in this sport?
SG: I’ve had a lot of fond memories. I had a very nice season at Paderborn (in 2008-09), when I won the league’s Golden Boot and we earned promotion. That year was great for me. In my career, I’ve experienced four or five championships. In soccer, these are always the top memories for everyone. I came to San Jose with the hope of achieving that success one day. We’ll see what happens.