SAN JOSE, Calif. – You could have won a fair amount of money in the Buck Shaw Stadium press box last Saturday betting against people who were certain, despite San Jose coach Frank Yallop’s insistence to the contrary, that new Earthquakes designated player Geovanni was going to start against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Those doubting Yallop had precedent on their side. After all, Yallop did the same song and dance two years ago when the team added winger Darren Huckerby, citing the Premier League veteran’s lack of fitness and the months since he’d played first-team, high-level soccer as the reason he wouldn’t start in his first game after signing with San Jose.
That was right up until Yallop went ahead and put Huckerby in the lineup against Toronto FC.
This time, however, Yallop stuck to his earlier statement; Geovanni opened on the bench and eventually made his Quakes debut as a 72nd-minute substitute.
As San Jose travel to New York this weekend, the question is, how long will Yallop hold out against the temptation of putting the Quakes’ best playmaker on the field from the initial kickoff?
“He won’t start this weekend, but he’s obviously available,” Yallop said. “I had a chat with him earlier in the week, and I said, ‘We’re not going to expose you when you’re not ready. We don’t need to bring you off at halftime because you’re really tired.’”
Geovanni admitted that he was feeling the burn after his 18-plus minutes against the Galaxy, his first competitive match in three months – and one that came less than 24 hours after he finished a two-day trip to Tijuana, Mexico, in order to get his P-1 visa endorsed by a US consulate official.
“I think I can play most of the game [against New York],” Geovanni said through an interpreter. “This game was very difficult because of the lack of training.”
Even before coming onto the field, Geovanni was still able to put in work, visually dissecting Los Angeles’ game plan in order to get a better idea for the MLS style of play.
“I paid attention a lot today when I was on the sidelines, looking to see spaces between the lines of the defense and midfield, to see what kind of things I can take advantage of next week,” Geovanni said. “I got a good feeling for how this league is. I think I can adapt really well.”
There’s another factor working in Yallop’s favor with regards to the go-slow plan: The team is on its first winning streak since early May, and the coach rarely messes with a winning side unless forced to by an injury or suspension.
“Well, we’re winning, so I wouldn’t start him anyway,” Yallop said. “We’ve won our last two games 1-0. That’s a good thing. So it’s not going to be forced upon anybody to play a guy that’s not ready to play.”
With his downtime, Geovanni, who travels on a Spanish passport and also speaks his native Portuguese, can work on his English language skills.
“It’s difficult to learn to speak [English], but I can understand a lot,” Geovanni said. “Both my kids speak better English than Portuguese, so I need to speak English to be able to talk to them better.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes