Monday, September 06, 2010 |
San Jose's first ever Designated Player signing is already making a difference. Geovanni set up a goal and scored his maiden MLS tally in the Quakes 2-1 win over the Dynamo in Houston last night, showing a readiness to contribute sorely lacking in some of his mid-summer DP peers.
Nery Castillo's aid to the Fire cause has been nil, and his fitness continues to be a serious frustration. Bronko Boskovic has done little, though he is admittedly stuck on a terrible team in DC. Mista is talented but inconsistent with Toronto, and Blase Nkufo has hardly been the forced most expected him to be after he played so well for Switzerland in South Africa.
For these players, the tier of big talent signings below the level of New York's more high-profile pair, the success rate is rather disappointing. Alvaro Fernandez is working out, Freddie Ljundberg has helped Chicago to a point with his built-in advantage of knowing the league, but otherwise it seems to be a collection of misses. Considering the time it sometimes takes new players to adjust to a league's style and pace, perhaps it's too early to label them as such; but the clubs with whom they signed were certainly hoping for an immediate return on their investment.
The playoff push crystallizes the crap shoot nature of these signings. For Chicago, Castillo's lack of production is made all the more painful because they desperately need every point they can get. That Geovanni has hit the ground running with San Jose only serves to magnify the Fire's failure, and brings up the relevant question of how much of the problem is down to the player, and how much heat the club should get for simply signing the wrong guy. Perhaps the Fire gave too much consideration to the marketing aspects of the DP slot, while San Jose simply went out and found a player that could help them on the field.
But if Geovanni lifts the Quakes to the playoffs it will no doubt raise his marketing profile, while an out-of-shape and ineffective Castillo will hamper Chicago's ability to use him to sell tickets and jerseys. In each case, the MLS club was taking a risk on a player with a poor recent history; it's easy in hindsight to say that Chicago's choice was more questionable than San Jose's, but because different considerations were involved, a function of running an MLS club, perhaps that's a bit unfair.
Could the Quakes have known that Geovanni would find his feet so quickly? Why was his fitness not the issue that Castillo's was?
The DP label naturally heaps large expectations on a player from the outset. Though it's too early to label Geovanni's signing a success or Castillo's a failure, the early returns indicate that maybe the Quakes got it right. The Fire can only hope, as each successive match passes and their playoff hopes teeter on the brink of oblivion, that their own summer signing isn't a total bust. The warning signs were there, and it would be a shame if they simply ignored them in deference to talent and name.
Geovanni did what he is paid to do last night, making a difference where so many in the class of signings he entered the league with have not. Even if contributions from other DPs are more subtle (again, excluding the two more expensive names in New York), these players are expected to help their teams with the talents that get them the big checks. In his first start, Geovanni has already done that.