[MLS]It took a more than a year longer than Frank Yallop thought it would, but finally a tall, rugged FC Dallas defender has been acquired to solidify the heart of the Quakes' back line.
Originally, that was supposed to be Clarence Goodson, but rather than moving west to San Jose upon being claimed in the expansion draft held prior to the 2008 season, he headed overseas to play in Norway. The Quakes 'D' performed well without him: by conceding 38 goals San Jose ranked third-best in MLS.
But a ragged start to 2009 - 11 goals allowed in six games, Jason Hernandez and Ryan Cochrane sidelined by injuries - prompted Yallop to place a few calls, and when FCD moved veteran Drew Moor into the middle and traded for U-20 captain Kyle Davies it no longer needed Pitchkolan, a four-year league veteran who has played 68 games (41 starts, five goals) since joining Dallas in 2005 out of West Virginia.
"We needed some depth, and I've always like Aaron," said Yallop to mlsnet.com. "His attitude's great and he works hard. He's looking for a new lease on life and we're hoping to give it to him."
Pitchkolan (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) is at least two inches shorter than Goodson yet can handle himself in the air. Kelly Gray has been playing in the middle with Nick Garcia, and with Cochrane out for at least three months because of follow-up surgery to his left ankle, Pitchkolan offers Yallop another option.
He started his MLS career as a holding midfielder but hasn't played there, aside from in-game emergency moves, since his rookie year. Pitchkolan, 26, will earn a base salary of $50,000 this season.
"Me and the coaches in Dallas had talked before, so it wasn't completely a bolt out of the blue," said Pitchkolan. "It's a change that I'm definitely looking forward to. I think [defense] is where my position will be. But obviously I'm willing to play anywhere. I'll talk it over with the coaches in the next couple of days."
He arrived in time to play against New York Wednesday in a U.S. Open Cup game, but was cup-tied, having already played this season in that competition for FCD against D.C. United. Watching the Quakes rally to tie the match, even though they conceded the winner with 10 minutes left, and training in San Jose for a few days has brought him up to speed on his new assignment. He won't be game-sharp for a while, though, having played only 45 minutes this season.
"It was good to come back and tie it up," said Pitchkolan of a 1-1 tie that turned into a 2-1 loss. "That shows good fight and character. We were just a little bit unlucky in the end that it ended up that way. That's just the way soccer is, a funny bounce this way or that."
San Jose traded a conditional pick in the 2011 SuperDraft for Pitchkolan. If Pitchkolan starts at least 12 of San Jose's remaining games, FCD will receive a third-round pick. If not, Dallas gets a fourth-rounder.