SANTA CLARA — For decades, talk of soccer as an up-and-coming sport in America was both ever-present and immensely premature.
Photos by Godofredo Vasquez/SFBay
Last week though, a study reported soccer is now as popular amongst adolescents as Major League Baseball. Part of the surge in popularity can be linked to the recent influx of established European talent crossing the Atlantic to join MLS clubs.
The San Jose Earthquakes have done their best this season to continue this trend, by signing three players from some of Europe’s most talent-laden countries.
Monday’s media day and training session saw the debut of Portuguese winger Yannick Djalo, an acquisition made official just minutes before practice began. Djalo joins fellow European newcomers Andreas Görlitz (Germany) and Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi (France).
Djalo, 27, comes to the Earthquakes on loan from Portuguese club S.L. Benfica. The speedy winger brings with him a combined eight years in Portugal’s first division and France’s Ligue 1.
Djalo also brings to the Quakes 20 games of UEFA Champions League experience, which should help San Jose in their own Champions League run — should they remain in contention when Djalo is ready to join the first team.
Earthquakes coach Mark Watson discussed his feelings about Djalo’s arrival:
“Very excited, we’ve been looking for a few players during the offseason who give us that little bit of quality, and that little bit of dynamic movement to go forward. … He’s someone that can offer in any forward position, and also as a wide player who can come inside and be an attacking type midfielder. “
Watson said he hopes Djalo will ready for Saturday’s league opener:
“He’s pretty fit. There’s a chance he could be involved Saturday against Real Salt Lake. He still needs to get his Visa processed, which means leaving the country and coming back into the US. That’ll take a couple days, we expect that to happen early this week.”
Monday also marked a return to training for former Bayern Munich fullback Andreas Görlitz. With the departure of first choice left-back Steven Beitashour, Görlitz is the most likely candidate to fill that position in the first team.
After impressing early in the preseason, Görlitz was sidelined by a left hamstring pull and then returned to Germany to tie up some loose ends.
Görlitz said he is anxious to get back on the pitch as soon as possible:
“I was fit from the beginning, then I got an injury like three weeks ago and tore my hamstring a little bit. Maybe in the next week I can start training with the team again. I was a little bit sad cause I felt really good, but that’s soccer. We have to play it safe.”
The Earthquakes host Mexican side Toluca Tuesday night at 7 p.m. the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions League Quarterfinals at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara.