Back in preseason, American soccer pundits pinned the Earthquakes to sign a Designated Player to fill the vacancy on the team’s roster left open by Matias Perez Garcia’s trade to Orlando City last summer. The team had made a series of high-profile moves, including TAM signings Danny Hoesen, Jahmir Hyka, Florian Jungwirth, etc., but didn’t secure a player to fill the team’s third DP slot.
At that time, Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli alluded to the fact that he wanted to ensure the right person was brought in to fill that role. Having only been on the job a couple months, he decided to keep his options open by not signing anyone and waiting for the summer’s secondary transfer window when top players were more readily available as many foreign leagues find themselves between seasons.
Several months later, the Earthquakes announced the acquisition of Georgian forward/midfielder Vako, who most recently played for Polish powerhouse Legia Warsaw – the same club the Chicago Fire pried Golden Boot frontrunner Nemanja Nikolic from.
One of just a few DP’s brought to MLS in the secondary transfer window, along with Orlando’s Yoshimar Yotun, Columbus Crew SC’s Pedro Santos, LA Galaxy’s Jonathan Dos Santos and D.C. United’s Paul Arriola, Vako’s arrival has been impactful in San Jose. For comparison sake, Vako has tallied five goals by himself while the other four aforementioned DP’s have scored four total between them.
Vako’s five goals and two assists have come in just 694 minutes, including a goal or assist (or both) in each of the last three games. He has scored in five of his eight MLS appearances in which he has played at least 45 minutes and the team is undefeated (2-0-2) when he starts and scores. His strike rate of 0.65 goals per 90 minutes would extrapolate to ~22 goals (and nine assists) if he played in all 34 regular season contests. Even if he doesn’t play in every game of a full season, he still seems more than capable of reaching 15 goals, a milestone only previously hit by Chris Wondolowski and Ronald Cerritos in Earthquakes history.
And yet through all his success and helping San Jose get to the verge of the Audi 2017 MLS Cup Playoffs, Vako’s quiet, reserved demeanor perseveres. He only wants to make headlines for what he does on-field, not what he says or does away from it. Yet still, the spotlight hasn’t been shone nearly bright enough in his direction.
The last couple years have seen the Earthquakes seek midseason help to boost the team’s offense ahead of the impending playoffs. Vako may be the one that finally delivers.
Get your tickets to support Vako and the Quakes in the regular season finale this Sunday at Avaya Stadium against Minnesota United FC. San Jose would punch their ticket to the postseason with a victory over the first-year side.