When the San Jose Earthquakes announced that El Salvador midfielder Jaime Alas would be joining the team on loan for the remainder of the 2013 season, the news was met with curiosity by most, but it was received with much excitement within the local Salvadoran population. And when Alas entered last Saturday’s match against Chivas USA as a late substitute, he ended an over two-and-a-half year drought of Salvadoran representation on the Quakes, the longest such stretch in club history.
From the sophomore season of MLS on through to the end of 2010, the Earthquakes welcomed at least one member of La Selecta to their roster. Starting with club legend Ronald Cerritos and ending with midfield sensation Arturo Alvarez, San Jose was home to four Salvadorans over that 14 year stretch. When Alvarez was selected by the Portland Timbers in the 2010 Expansion Draft, one of the most passionate sectors of Quakes fans was left without one of their own to support.
And now, the wait is over. Wearing the familiar blue and white jerseys of El Salvador’s national team, numerous fans joined the sold-out crowd at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday, watching their hero practice before the game and anticipating him taking the field against the Goats. While the 23-year old didn’t start the match, it didn’t dampen the mood of his supporters, and their patience was rewarded when Alas entered the game in the 77th minute. Famous to most soccer fans for his stoppage time goal in 2012 Olympic qualifying that sent El Salvador to London at the expense of the U.S. Men’s Olympic Team, the dynamic midfielder blended in nicely with his new teammates and helped the Quakes collect a comfortable victory.
Alas, already with 32 appearances with La Selecta, will definitely look to add his name to the Earthquakes legacy of successful Salvadoran playmakers. So whose footsteps is Alas following now that he’s started his tenure in San Jose? A look through the Earthquakes record book shows some mighty impressive predecessors.
Ronald Cerritos (1997-2001, 2005) — The Salvadoran tradition in San Jose began when Cerritos, the franchise’s standard bearer for offensive excellence, burst onto the scene for the 1997 Clash and earned selection to that season’s MLS Best XI. The flashy forward not only scored an impressive 61 goals in his 6 seasons as an Earthquake, he also served up a club record 47 assists. In 4 of 5 seasons during his first stint in San Jose, the striker paced the team in goals, and after each of his first 3 years was named the team’s Most Valuable Player.
Cerritos may have lost his spot atop the all-time Quakes scoring list to Chris Wondolowski in 2012, but that did nothing to diminish his legacy as the most accomplished San Jose player as he still ranks in the top five in every offensive category. Befitting that standing, the Salvadoran striker was inducted into the Earthquakes Hall of Fame during a memorable and emotional ceremony at Buck Shaw Stadium in 2010. Along with John Doyle and Troy Dayak, Cerritos is one of only 3 players from the MLS era of San Jose soccer to be bestowed that honor.
Raul Diaz Arce (1999) — Making only a brief stop in San Jose, La Selecta’s all-time leading scorer combined with fellow countryman Cerritos to provide a potent offensive pairing for the 1999 Clash. Though entering the final stage of his impressive professional career, Raul Diaz Arce proved his value when, despite being traded away midseason to the Tampa Bay Mutiny, he still finished the year second on the team in goals. Not necessarily for its longevity, the Salvadoran star’s short Spartan Stadium stay will always be remembered.
Arturo Alvarez (2003-04, 2008-10) — Following the departure of Cerritos at the conclusion of the Earthquakes’ 2001 championship season, Salvadoran supporters had to wait two years before welcoming one of their own to San Jose. In the 2003 MLS SuperDraft, the Quakes selected teenage sensation Arturo Alvarez with their second overall pick, and though he represented U.S. Soccer at the youth level, the Texas native was always proud of his Salvadoran decent.
When the club returned to San Jose in 2008, Alvarez was enjoying a successful stint as a member of FC Dallas, but the following season, the Earthquakes brought the left footed maestro back to San Jose. In nearly three years back in Blue and Black, Alvarez treated supporters to 11 goals and 6 assists from his right side midfield position. His place in Salvadoran soccer was cemented when he made his La Selecta debut in 2009 during El Salvador’s World Cup qualifying campaign. A popular figure during his time in San Jose, Alvarez continues his professional career with storied Hungarian side Videoton.
Ramon Sanchez (2009-10) — His signing considered quite the coup in the summer of 2009, El Salvador national team captain Ramon Sanchez made his most significant contributions to the club down the stretch that season. Calm in possession as he patrolled the center of the pitch, Sanchez tallied 2 goals and 1 assist over the Earthquakes’ last 10 games, but it wasn’t enough to lift the team into the playoffs. Following a lackluster start to the 2010 season, despite his prominence with La Selecta, Sanchez returned to his native country to play for C.D. Aguila.
Robert Jonas is a writer for CenterLineSoccer.com and SJEarthquakes.com. Send him feedback on Twitter: @RobertJonas