Geovanni, Matias Perez Garcia, Innocent; the trifecta of Quakes DP ineptitude. They represent the first three non-Quake DP signings by then-GM John Doyle. All statistical busts for San Jose, although MPG was having his best year last season before being traded to Orlando City SC. Simon Dawkins is the fourth and last hope for Doyle’s legacy, and as we head into the regular season, Dawkins is making a strong case to be yet another Doyle DP disappointment.
Dawkins was an integral part of a Quakes 2012 team that refused to lose. He was young, energetic, and electric on the ball. Unfortunately Tottenham’s fee for Simon was too rich for Doyle’s blood (along with other notable Quakes like Steven Beitashour, Justin Morrow, and Ike Opara), and the Quakes have struggled ever since. Instead of flourishing with the Spurs, Dawkins was loaned to lower club Aston Villa, and loaned again to England’s second division’s Derby County, where he found himself on the bench by the time the Quakes came calling. He also found himself on the bench for Jamaica’s national team during the non-Quake window, where he failed to score during the 2015 Gold Cup and Copa America tournaments. It was a bumpy ride for Simon after he left Buck Shaw.
But then Doyle threw Simon a DP lifesaver: a return to MLS and an annual salary of $800k/season. It was a gamble, but one fans appreciated, including myself. Simon was a Goonie squad member, and if he could rekindle that magic with Wondo up top, the team might be able to get back to that 2012 “refuse to lose” mentality. Instead, the Quakes saw their most impotent offensive season in the club’s MLS history: 32 goals in 34 games, an abysmal 0.94 goals-per-game average. Simon was a key contributor to this defacing of the beautiful game.
The signs were always there, and I waved the flags. I wrote that Simon was part of a Quakes squad that had yet to score against MLS opponents during the 2016 preseason as a potential sign of trouble, but gave him a pass since he was new to the team (I also gave Wondo low scores, but did note that he WOULD turn it around, which he did). After the 2016 preseason, I showed how the Quakes starters were struggling on offense, and that should be a concern going into 2016, of which Dawkins was a part. In early April, I warned about Dawkins’s lack of production despite him having been with the team for numerous games. In May, I exposed Dawkins as a liability for Quakes midfielders. In August, I codified Simon’s return to San Jose as one of failure. We know the rest of the story: the Quakes finished 2016 out of the playoffs and offensively destitute.
Now it’s 2017, and not much has changed with Simon on the pitch. The Quakes are still struggling on offense, netting a goal or less per game in each of their preseason friendlies, including a 1-0 shutout by the S.F. Deltas. On Saturday in Reno, Dawkins appeared to be lost as he struggled to produce offense against a newly-minted USL squad. He turned the ball over more than once, dribbled into trouble numerous times, and was one of the few players to be subbed off at the half. With Tommy Thompson making a case, and incoming international signings such as Jahmir Hyka with the team, Dawkins’s starting days–and days in a Quakes uniform–are probably numbered.
Dawkins’s story is not new. Last season, DP mid Matias Perez Garcia was a starter in preseason, but his poor form caused him to be replaced by Alberto Quintero in the starting lineup. Dawkins is having the same MPG preseason of 2016 with Jahmir Hyka ready to take his spot on the starting XI. With his job on the line, I doubt Dawkins gets much of a leash from Dom Kinnear.
Apologists will say that Dawkins just doesn’t fit Dom’s system, needs to be playing more in the midfield, etc. I might buy these arguments if Dawkins actually had a system in which he has shown success since 2013. History shows otherwise: since leaving San Jose, he has consistently struggled with every team of which he has been a part, including his return to San Jose. It’s not a system issue, it’s a player issue.
I’m hopeful Dawkins can turn it around. I really want to see him succeed. But most of all, I want to see the team be successful, and if that means putting Dawkins on the bench in favor of Tommy Thompson, Jahmir Hyka, or Flo Jungwirth, so be it.