Defending the Innocent

March 4, 2015

A lot of people are displeased with the signing of Innocent Emeghara.  Reasons include his lack of name recognition, relatively unproven track record, he plays a position in which we already have a DP, and the offseason market was filled with more desirable players, like Diskerud, Gerrard, Lampard, David Villa, Kaka, and potential players like Xavi Alonzo, Balotelli, and van der Vaart.  He also takes up the last DP spot on the Quakes roster, so the Quakes are out of the running for future stars in the next few years.

Let’s also be honest, the Quakes do not have the best track record when it comes to DPs.  In our history, we’ve had four total.  Geovanni lasted less than a season (signed August 2010, released at the end of 2010 season).  MPG had six appearances in 2014, with one goal before getting injured.  With Wondo being the only consistent player, the Quakes are currently at a 33% success rate, pending the new season.  If Innocent does not pan out, and MPG goes back on the IR, Doyle might be packing his bags at the end of 2015.  I can understand the hate, or at least the apprehension, of signing Emeghara.

However, there is a bigger picture.  All of our current DPs were signed in the prime of their careers.  MPG just turned 30, Wondo just turned 32, and Innocent is 25.  Many in the DP market are signing these contracts in their mid 30s so they will be playing into their late 30s (Gerrard, Lampard, David Villa, etc).  I would rather sign players in their prime than sign older players with name recognition in their twilight.  Sometimes it works (Keane, Henry, Dempsey for example), but I think the Quakes would rather have young guys hungry for glory than older guys who’ve had their fair share.   Signing older former European players may grow the sport in Orlando or NYC, but in San Jose, winning games draws people more.  Right, Darren Huckerby?

Then there’s the “similarity” argument: Innocent plays relatively the same position (attacking mid and forward) as our other DPs.  Why is this an argument against Innocent?  The Quakes already have quality defensive players and midfielders.  USMNT veteran Goodson could have been a potential DP signing; he *should* be considered our “fourth” DP.  We just signed Renato to three years, who showed his mettle during the preseason, and Bernardez is no slouch.  Ever since Simon Dawkins left in 2012 (the year we won the Supporters’ Shield), we have had a void in the attacking mid position.  Baca tried, but couldn’t fill it (2 assists in all of 2013), Djalo was just a stopgap loan.  Now we have two players who can be play-makers.

But Innocent isn’t a proven forward.  Because he’s young!  Bradley Wright-Phillips scored 1 goal in 2013, and 27 goals in 2014.  He was also a young, “unproven” forward who played mostly for second division teams in the EPL.  Now he’s a DP and golden boot recipient.  Innocent has that potential to be great, especially with players around him like Wondo and MPG, guys who can play the game and play it well.  He was not a “rushed” signing, but the end-product of an off-season of scouting in which Dom Kinnear made the call.  I trust Dom’s decision, and fans should, too.

If Innocent does not work, fine.  But at least recognize the method to the madness first.  He’s not a bad signing.  There is a lot of potential, and I look forward to watching him run circles around the “big names” that will visit Avaya this year.

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