[MLS] After two straight years of missing the playoffs while winning just 15 of 60 games, and signing more disappointments than solutions, the San Jose Earthquakes took two drastic steps. First, they signed a Brazilian attacker, which of course teams all over the world have found to be a panacea for offensive woes. Coach Frank Yallop expected Eduardo to add some class and guile to a robust attack, but when injuries sidelined him repeatedly during the 2010 season, the Quakes implemented Plan B: a Designated Player, and not just any DP, but another Brazilian, Geovanni.
With Eduardo still injured, Geovanni appeared as a substitute against the Galaxy and New York, and in his first start personally dispatched Houston with a goal and an assist at Robertson Stadium Sept. 5. Not until last weekend’s home match with Dallas did they appear on the field together, and after Eduardo entered the match in the 70th minute they nearly combined to net the goal that would have broken open a goalless game.
Gliding through the middle near the penalty area, Geovanni chipped a ball that Eduardo stretched to reach but only got enough of the ball to send it wide of the post. Yallop acknowledges that the process of getting his two Brazilians to jell with each other and the rest of the team has just begun, but with the Quakes sitting in the playoff tier there’s no need for desperate measures.
“What their strengths and weaknesses are, I haven’t seen too much of either guy yet, because Eduardo’s been injured and Geovanni hasn’t been here very long,” said Yallop, “but both are inventive, both see the game differently, and these are players who are the difference-makers in the league.
“Geovanni’s not really and out-and-out forward. He’s a floater, and he’s difficult to mark. Because he’s so dangerous when he does get to do his thing, it unlocks teams. We’ve been looking for this player for a while and finally got him.”
Yallop can use the duo in different roles, but ideally, he will pair Eduardo with another forward – the Quakes have several on their roster but only Chris Wondolowski has been able to score regularly – and let Geovanni drive the attack from somewhere in midfield.
“They’re still getting to know each other and we’re still getting to know them,” says defenderJason Hernandez, “but yeah, when we get the ball you can see what they can do.”
The Quakes’ first dip into the Brazilian market began promisingly but eventually fizzled out. Central midfielder Francisco Lima, despite his 37 years, brought a rugged elegance to the middle when he arrived midway through the 2008 season and played 14 games. He had signed an 18-month contract yet at the end of the season insisted on leaving for Italy, and after a brief tussle of wills the club let him go.
“He was a freak physically, just amazing,” said Yallop. “He was tremendous for us and we expected him to come back but he decided to leave and that was that. Too bad, really, he was a very good player in this league.”
It took Yallop more than a year to find another physical presence with attacking instincts to fill that role. In August the Quakes signed former Wizard Khari Stephenson, who returned to MLS after playing five years in Norway and Sweden. Stephenson put away a cross from Geovanni to score the first goal in the Houston win, and Geovanni stabbed the winning goal into the net from close range after a tackle poked the ball away from Cornell Glen.
“Geovanni is more of a converted midfielder into a forward,” said Yallop in yet another attempt to articulate what his Brazilian pair bring to the team. “Eduardo is more of a forward who likes to come back a little bit. His instincts are to get around the goal and be dangerous, Geovanni is a provider as well, but both are very dangerous in the final third.”
Those last eight words are what matters most.