The San Jose Earthquakes announced their most expensive signing in club history Thursday, with Argentinian midfielder Matías Pérez García joining the team for a reported transfer fee of around $2 million.
After a week of speculation that the 29-year-old had made the decision to leave Argentinian club CA Tigre for the United States, Quakes’ President Dave Kaval’s announcement that San Jose was both willing and looking to spend big money on an attack-minded player finally came to fruition.
Pérez García will join U.S. Men’s National Chris Wondolowski as the Earthquakes’ second designated player on the roster.
The Designated Player Rule — also known as the Beckham Rule — allows MLS teams to sign up to three players to contracts that exceed the strict MLS salary cap. The MLS does not disclose player salaries.
In addition to injecting a struggling Quakes team with some much-needed talent, the Pérez García signing is significant for two reasons.
First, Kaval previously stated that the opening of the new stadium next year will increase the team’s salary budget. Considering the cost of this move, it seems to already be doing so.
The Earthquakes have been behind other MLS clubs in recent years when it comes to big name signings, primarily due to their lack of available funds. Perez is only the third DP in club history, though eight MLS clubs currently have three on their roster right now.
Earthquakes officials said Pérez García has been on the top of a 100 player list of prospects for two years. What’s more, San Jose reportedly outbid Buenos Aires clubs River Plate and Racing FC for Perez Garcia’s services.
The move signals a new era for the San Jose Earthquakes as contenders for foreign talent.
Second, the acquisition of a technically-skilled and creative midfielder reinforces the growing suspicion that the Earthquakes are moving away from the direct style that has been their calling card for the last three seasons.
Doyle did admit on Friday the front office was looking to give Mark Watson more options with regards to style of play, but insisted that target forward Steven Lenhart will still be a contributor moving ahead.
The Quakes played without a target forward in their 5-1 victory against Chicago last Wednesday. The performance nixed a four-game losing streak and was easily San Jose’s most impressive outing of 2014.
Interestingly, it also coincided with the absence of big target men Lenhart and Alan Gordon for the first time all season.
While the Quakes rode their direct physical style to a Supporter’s Shield in 2012, the club has struggled since then, missing the playoffs last year, and currently sitting in last place in the Western Conference.
San Jose still wins more aerial battles than any other team in the MLS, but the results seem to indicate that teams have figured how to defend their direct style.
More talent each season is entering a league once known for scrappy physical play but moving more toward a a tactical, possession-based approach.
A few other creative Argentinian midfielders — Diego Valeri of Portland and Federico Higuain of Columbus to name a few — have contributed to this trend.
The Pérez García move means more than just the acquisition of a good player. It is further proof of a tactical overhaul that supporters have been pleading for for a long time.
With regards to tactics, the Earthquakes seem to think that Pérez García is most effective as a right-sided midfielder who can cut inside and make plays in the attacking 1/3. Perez Garcia can also play centrally and as an attacking midfielder, giving San Jose a variety of options.
Still waiting for his work visa, Pérez García will not be available when the San Jose Earthquakes face the Seattle Sounders at Levi’s Stadium Saturday evening, where the Quakes will get a real idea how effective the Wondo/Djalo pairing is up top, facing the leaders of the Western Conference.
The game will be the first sporting event ever played at the 49ers’ new home in Santa Clara, and marks the beginning of a five-year partnership between the Earthquakes and Levi’s Stadium. Kickoff is at 7:30 p.m. and the game can be seen on NBC Sports Network.