SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Attacking midfielder Andre Luiz, who has been in and out of the San Jose lineup this year due to pain in his left knee, is expected to miss the remainder of the 2010 season after he undergoes surgery to repair a damaged posterior cruciate ligament, Earthquakes general manager John Doyle told MLSsoccer.com Tuesday.
“We’ve tried to tape him together for the start of the season, but it isn’t working,” Doyle said. “You feel sick a little bit, because he’s one of those rare players that can do it all.”
The 35-year-old Brazilian originally injured his knee after joining the Quakes midway through last season, and underwent arthroscopic surgery in March to correct a torn meniscus.
Andre Luiz was never 100 percent, however. He limped through the season opener, had to be replaced just before kickoff against Chivas USA on April 24 and came off after only 23 minutes in the Quakes’ most recent game, a 2-0 loss in Dallas on June 5.
“It feels like he’s been hampered for the whole year,” Quakes defender Chris Leitch told MLSsoccer.com. “I would say that he’s definitely felt this from Day 1.”
Even so, the Quakes have been demonstrably better with Andre Luiz on the field; in eight matches where he’s played the majority of the game, San Jose is 5-1-2. The other three matches were all defeats.
“That’s a great stat if he’s playing,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “But not when he’s out.”
Andre Luiz tried to gut it out, getting the knee drained of fluid in May after back-to-back matches on artificial turf. But after seeking four different medical opinions, the consensus was that surgery was required. The procedure is expected to take place within two weeks.
“Andre’s sick about it,” Doyle said. “He was willing to take a shot here and there to keep playing, but you can’t keep doing that. You end up with a Jim Otto knee.”
Attempting to fill the void, the Quakes consummated a trade with Toronto FC for second-year player Sam Cronin, the No. 2 overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft. They also worked out two veteran midfielders with MLS experience during the World Cup break, with an eye towards possibly adding one or two players after the midseason transfer window opens on July 15.
One of those veterans was Tiger Fitzpatrick, a 31-year-old from Trinidad & Tobago who played with Real Salt Lake in 2005. The other was a 33-year-old South American the team declined to immediately identify.
“You lose someone like Andre, you need to replace him,” Yallop said. “What we’re trying to do is find someone similar to him. We’ll see how people come in and do, and look at our scouting and the rest of it.”
In the short term, a team source said, Cronin will get first crack at the job. Rookie Brad Ring could also make a bid for playing time if Cronin can’t get up to speed immediately.
The team also has little-used midfielders Javier Robles and Ramon Sanchez on the bench, but neither appears to be considered the answer to fill Andre Luiz’s spot. Sanchez played a significant role for the Quakes in 2009 after joining the team midway through the season, but has seen just 83 minutes of action this year as Yallop has gone in another direction.
“I just think the way that we play is pretty high-tempo this season,” Yallop said. “Last year, we were a different looking team with the players we had. I think that we’ve got a style of play that I really like and I’m trying to stick with. It’s no disrespect to anybody, but Ramon did well last year, and this is this year.”
Whatever the answer is, the Quakes need to find it, unless they want to wait for next spring, by which time Andre Luiz should be fully recovered.
“It’s going to be really important for us to figure that out, because that’s the most important part of the pitch,” Leitch said. “You definitely need somebody else in there that’s a true No. 10, a true guy that can take care of the game. Those guys in the middle -- look at any country in the world or any club team – the ballers are in the middle of the field. Your most important player is sitting there. So we’ll see if we can fix that.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes