Zuras departure creates quandary for Earthquakes

September 1, 2011, 5:31 pm
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Nick Rosano

SAN JOSE The man who the Earthquakes hoped would be their late season lift has left the club with barely more than a sputter. After only 20 ineffective minutes on the field in the teams 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy, Zura left the club to return to his native Ecuador. The San Jose Earthquakes announced today that the club has terminated the loan deal with Ecuadorian outfit El Nacional for forward Edmundo Zura, a statement issued by the team said. The action is a result of findings in his full medical examination. Both head coach Frank Yallop and general manager John Doyle made it clear that Zura was not able to perform at the level the Earthquakes had expected him to. With just ten games left in the season when Zura arrived, both had highlighted the need for a player that could make an impact right away. NEWS: Quakes huanted by wastefulness in 1-1 draw
For me, he wasnt able to compete at the level that we need him to compete at physically. Thats the key component of it all, Doyle said. You would think that he would be able to compete at that level. I think theres two things I think his fitness and somethings wrong with him. In particular, Doyle pointed to Zuras cameo as a substitute against the Galaxy. After entering the game in the 71st minute, Zura looked unable to cope with the pace of play, a fact the player himself noted later as a possible hurdle for him, but one he felt he could overcome.As soon as we saw him run around in the game, the ten minutes, I said to Frank ,Hes not running right, Doyle explained. Its for me very easy, and it wasnt fatigue, its not a thing where you go, Oh, hes had a long flight. The failure of the teams attempt to bring in an impact player will likely bring the Earthquakes management under more scrutiny, especially with the team riding a 13 game winless streak and looking increasingly likely to miss out on the playoffs for the third time in four years since returning to the league as an expansion team in 2008. Quite honestly, we made a mistake, Earthquakes president David Kaval wrote on the teams official website, though he acknowledged that the team would do more in the future to prevent a similar situation. Going forward, we have plans to allocate more resources to improve the process of international player acquisitions to make sure a situation like this doesnt happen again. Zuras departure leaves the Earthquakes in a bit of a quandary in regards to who will partner Chris Wondolowski up top. Yallop has always been a fan of using a big target forward in his lineups, and Zura was thought to be the replacement in that role with Alan Gordon (surgery) and Steven Lenhart (family leave) out for the foreseeable future. While the international transfer window closed on Aug. 15, there is still a possibility the Earthquakes could make a move before the Sept. 15 roster freeze deadline for MLS teams, though Doyle admitted it was unlikely the team would make any moves. I thinksome of the guys that are here are going to get more opportunities, Doyle said. He also referenced the improving health of Simon Dawkins and Scott Sealy, who were injured when the club brought in Zura. Wondolowski also acknowledged that rather than bringing in a new player to have an impact, the team could find a solution to its woes among the players already on the roster. Its not like we had him Zura and now we dont, so we just gotta keep doing what weve been doing, he said. Simons healthy now, so that makes a huge difference, and I think were starting to get more guys healthy and starting to play a lot better. REWIND: Quakes shift focus to 2012, Ecuadorian striker Zura
Against Toronto, Dawkins got the start up top alongside Wondolowski, his intelligent and technical link-up play intended to help create chances, as opposed to the tougher, more physically based play a forward like Lenhart, Gordon or Zura would offer. Another option on the table for Frank Yallop and his staff is Matt Luzunaris, the young striker who has seen limited playing time thus far this season, but featured as an 83rd minute substitute in San Joses most recent game, a 1-1 draw at Toronto FC. He brings a lot of energy, hes got good movement, hes a powerful, strong runner, good in the air, so it was a good thing to have him, Wondolowski said, of Luzunaris cameo against Toronto. With the Earthquakes still mathematically in the playoff race, Yallop indicated that he would likely go with a more known quantity in his team as a second forward likely Dawkins or Khari Stephenson but he expected Luzunaris and fellow young attacker Ellis McLoughlin to be ready to contribute if called upon. Its never easy because usually you go with what you kind of know, Yallop said. I think that Ellis had a few opportunities to play well in limited minutes that I agreed, but I think when youre still fighting for a playoff spot and trying to win you tend to pick what you think is your strongest team. Yallop and the Earthquakes do have some time to sort out the situation at forward, as the team has a bye this coming weekend. It will return to action when the Chicago Fire pay a visit to Buck Shaw Stadium on Sept. 10.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer musings, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano

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