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2012 MLS Draft: San Jose Earthquakes fill their need for speed with selection of U.C Santa Barbara forward Sam Garza

Sam Garza, resplendent in his San Jose Earthquakes draft day scarf, addresses the media after this selection sixth overall in the 2012 MLS SuperDraft.

Pursuing a need for increased team speed that head coach Frank Yallop revealed at the completion of the 2011 MLS regular season, the San Jose Earthquakes made dynamic winger Sam Garza their first selection in yesterday’s MLS SuperDraft. The Generation Adidas signing out of U.C. Santa Barbara was a surprise pick by many (sift through the complement of post-draft analyses listed after the break), but was a player the Earthquakes had targeted well before the pre-draft MLS Combine.

"I’ve always liked Sam," shared coach Yallop after the conclusion of the draft. "All of us on the coaching staff, we’ve had him scouted and liked what we saw. He’s very talented; he’s got good ability to beat players with or without the ball. He’s a good all-around player with a great attitude. It was a great selection for us."

With other comparable players available to the Earthquakes when they made their selection at number six overall, the decision to go with Garza came down to what television commentator Alexi Lalas referred to as "catnip to coaches" — speed. The UCSB standout finished with the second best sprint time at the MLS Combine, behind only undrafted High Point forward Karo Okiomah. In fact, Garza showed off his multidimensional skill set with a fifth place finish in the power vertical leap test as well.

"He’s very quick and dynamic," assessed Yallop. "He can play wide, he can play second forward, I think he can play a lot of positions, which is obviously good. The way he goes about things on the field, we are very excited to have him."

One of the biggest concerns for the Earthquakes in 2011 was the dearth of speed on the wings, which contributed to a stunted counterattack as well as an ability to break down defensives when settled into the offensive third. In a busy offseason, the Earthquakes have added speedy midfielders Shea Salinas and Marvin Chavez to the roster, in addition to the newly drafted Garza. Coach Yallop sees all three players playing a major role for the team in the 2012 season.

"If you look at the way we played toward the end of the season," said Yallop when asked where the new players fit into the squad, "we had guys like Simon Dawkins and Rafael Baca playing wide which is not their natural positions. They did a good job overall, but our service to the front men was not as good as it could be. We picked up Marvin Chavez and Shea Salinas, and now Garza, who are all natural wide players. It adds a dimension to what we are trying to do and overall well make the team well-rounded."

While the status of the proposed loan deal to bring Dawkins back to San Jose is still in discussion, coach Yallop did mention that he hoped the negotiations could be completed within the next week or two. The success of the Earthquakes offseason moves hinges in large degree to whether they can bring back the young Tottenham player. If Spurs and the Earthquakes are unable to make a deal work, San Jose will have to look elsewhere for a central attacking midfielder, or look inward to their own roster.

"I want a dynamic and quick player that can fit into our system," revealed Yallop on their current scouting activities. "I don’t care where he comes from, but he has to be able to match the way we want to play. We are still looking, and we are spending a lot of times watching games and going over potential guys, but it is not easy."

With training camp slated to open this Sunday, and the season opener less than two months away, time is not on the Earthquakes side to bring in that target player. If they are able to do so before the start of the season, and they are able to settle in with the team, the Earthquakes will be well on their way to taking the steps forward to put last year’s disappointing season behind them.

A look around the web to how others viewed the San Jose Earthquakes 2012 MLS Draft selecitons:

Ives Galarcep gives the Earthquakes a passing grade in his draft grades on FoxSoccer.com.

Travis Clark drops the Earthquakes into the losers category over at ESPN.com.

Charles Gooch on the scene for the Kansas City Star with a more objective look at the selections.

Simon Borg at MLSSoccer.com with a different look at the winners and losers.

Nicholas Rosano look at all three Earthquakes picks for CSN Bay Area.

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