If you ask fans to name one San Jose Earthquakes player, odds are the most common answers would be flourishing teenager Cade Cowell, leading scorer Jeremy Ebobisse, dazzling winger Cristian Espinoza, or maybe longtime stalwart Tommy Thompson. A player who should come to mind immediately is unheralded star Jamiro Monteiro.
Monteiro, 29, finished the 2022 season with four goals and seven assists, good enough for fourth and second on the team, respectively. While those figures don’t quite stack up to Ebobisse’s 17 goals or Espinoza’s 14 assists, Monteiro may ultimately be the most influential player to San Jose’s desired success. As he approaches his second season with the Quakes, he’s finding himself more relaxed and in-tune with the squad.
“I’m more comfortable this year for sure,” explained Monteiro from the team hotel in Palm Springs. “In your first season, it’s important to get to know each other and build relationships and I was able to do that. The team welcomed me, and it’s really become a family here. Everybody is there for you if you need anything or if you have questions. If you don’t feel well, everyone asks you how you are. I’m happy to be here and looking forward to my second season.”
One of Monteiro’s most overlooked attributes is his aggressiveness and desire to win the ball defensively. Most attacking midfielders are known for what they do with the ball, but Monteiro’s differentiating factor is what he does without the ball. This can be exemplified in his assist in last season’s stunning 4-3 comeback victory over Seattle. He wins the ball back with aggressive pressing (from Best XI midfielder Joao Paulo, no less), sets the team on the attack, and provides a quick-thinking assist for Jackson Yueill’s goal.
“I really enjoy winning balls from players and going directly forward. I enjoy attacking, but I must say I really enjoy defending too.”
The Rotterdam native is now paired with recent acquisition Carlos Gruezo in the center of the pitch, giving San Jose arguably the best ball-winning midfield duo in Major League Soccer. MLS analyst Matthew Doyle said San Jose’s acquisition of Gruezo is maybe his ‘single favorite move of the offseason by any team.’
“Since the first training, you can see how good he is,” Monteiro said of Gruezo. “We’ve now played two games together and he’s going to help me a lot. Defensively, we’re very similar. We both have the same hunger, the same bite. We want to win the ball. And I think he will allow me more freedom offensively. I’m happy he’s here and I think they did a great job by bringing him to San Jose.”
It should be noted that Monteiro is not just a ball-winner, but also one of the team’s most talented creators. He displays unrivaled flair, precision, and a little something extra that every good offense needs to have. During the team’s most recent preseason match against D.C. United, he tallied one goal and one assist, the game-winner. In the match before that, vs. Monterey Bay F.C., he tallied an assist after pressing high and forcing a turnover.
Monteiro joined the Quakes ahead of the 2022 season in a trade with the Union after three yearsin Philadelphia. In those three seasons, Philadelphia never finished lower than third in the Eastern Conference and won the 2020 Supporters’ Shield.
“It was their first Supporters’ Shield,” he recalled. “I remember I was able to make an impact with the team and helped them win that trophy. To be a part of that team was really special. I enjoyed my time there and now I’m striving to win the Supporters’ Shield and MLS Cup with San Jose. That’s my goal and I will give everything I have to accomplish that.”
In addition to sky-high team goals, Monteiro has his sights set on lofty individual goals as well.
“I want to score more and have more assists. My goal is to have at least 10 goals and 10 assists in 2023.”
For context, only six players in MLS had 10+ goals and 10+ assists in 2022, including some of the league’s heavy hitters like Carlos Vela, Lucas Zelarayan, and MVP Hany Mukhtar.
Monteiro also said the vibe in preseason under new head coach Luchi Gonzalez is positive and the team is sensing a renewed chemistry.
“To be honest, it feels really good. You can easily see what kind of coach he is. He brings all ofthe players together very well.
“Last year we didn’t have a good season and I will do everything I can to make sure that doesn’t happen again.”
As Monteiro goes, so will the Quakes.