Quakes shift focus to 2012, Ecuadorian striker Zura

August 25, 2011, 6:59 pm
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Nicholas Rosano
SAN JOSE With the Earthquakes playoff hopes quickly fading, it is natural to imaginethat much of the teams focus will shift towards building for 2012 and puttingthe team back in playoff contention. While the team hasnt been mathematicallyeliminated from playoff contention, the weekends 2-0 loss at the Los AngelesGalaxy, combined with other results around the league, left the Earthquakesfarther adrift than ever.
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As such, in addition to fighting until the end for a playoffspot, many players will be looking to keep their spot on the team for nextseason. Making that competition just a bit fiercer is the fact that the team islikely to bring in a number of trialists in the coming weeks and months, alongwith the addition of the latest player to grace the Earthquakes roster,Edmundo Zura.
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Zura, an Ecuadorian forward who arrived last week on loanfrom El Nacional in his native country, is on the roster and can play for theEarthquakes during the rest of the season, unlike any trialist the team mightbring in. The nature of his deal, though, means he will also be playing for aspot on the team in 2012. Should he impress during the final two months of the season,the Earthquakes could look to exercise their option make his move permanent.Otherwise, he would return to El Nacional. Part of the rationale for Zuras move is simply necessity.With both Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon out for a considerable amount of time,the Earthquakes were in the market for an attacking player, and Zurasperceived capabilities as a target forward made him a suitable choice to fillthe role Gordon and Lenhart played for the Earthquakes a key part of Yallopstactical set up.
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Those two Gordon and Lenhart are very active and Edmundo,once he gets fit, he should be that type, head coach Frank Yallop explained.Pretty strong target, good in the air and can finish, but youve got to beable to move and be in condition to do that, a lot of runs, its a lot of runsin our game. The players condition could indeed be the biggest stickingpoint in getting Zura to the point where he can make an impact for theEarthquakes. Despite being in season in his native Ecuador,Zura ended up arriving to meet the squad for the game in Los Angeles without much match fitness, andit showed in his 20 minutes on the field.We thought he would be a lot closer being match fit, buthes not, head coach Frank Yallop said. He really needs to get working andget fit, and then we can really assess him, for sure.Zura himself also acknowledged that he had hard work aheadof him, saying through a translator, Im not perfect, but Im working hard toget better and get in good shape. I felt very good, like I could give those 20minutes against LA, but there is some work to do.
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Coming from Ecuador,a league where technical skills often take precedence over the physical,hard-running style found in a league like MLS, Zura also acknowledged thatplaying in the U.S.would take some adaptation on his part. However, he also believed his timeplaying in Australia,with a league similar in style to MLS, could help prepare him for the rigors ofphysical play here. Here its always different, there is a lot more running, alot more running with the ball, he said. More touches, the speed is just alittle bit quicker. I expected that a little bit because I played in Australia,which is a league with a lot of fast running. Once Zura does make it to full match fitness, though, histeammates will be ready to welcome him into the fold. I think hes a good player. I definitely hope that he canhelp out some, said Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski, who also expressedhope that Zura could fill the role once filled by Lenhart and Gordon. Hesdefinitely a target forward hes a big boy, so yeah, its hopefully somethingthat he can do. It is up in the air as to whether Zura will be able totravel to Canadafor the Earthquakes upcoming match against Toronto FC on Aug. 27 generalmanager John Doyle said he was working on obtaining a visa to allow Zura totravel north of the border. If Zura should not make the trip, though, he will haveplenty of time to get fit and ready to make the impact the Earthquakes areseeking from him, with a two-week break in action before Chicago comes to townon Sept. 10.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer musings,you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano