MLS Fantasy 2016: What you need to succeed

By Jamie Dawe

Every year the MLS Fantasy minefield blows up anyone who hasn’t fully considered their team selection or their formation. Many people watch their team slide down the leaderboard for the first month while they helplessly panic behind their computer screens. However, there are a few key things you ought to know before you set up your team for this year’s competition.

The New Rules

There are now only 16 players on your roster (rather than 18), but each team still has the same $120.0 budget, meaning you can fill your side with more stars than ever in 2016.

Points are now scored for players who suffer four fouls in a game, for every 35 passes that are completed with 85% accuracy and also for every four shots taken in a game. In addition, defenders and defensive midfielders can score points for clearances, interceptions, tackles and blocks. This will make players like Osvaldo Alonso ($8.5) and Matias Laba ($7.5) even more attractive propositions.

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The Roster

Having two goalkeepers gives you room to have a week-in-week-out starting goalkeeper and also a young up-and-coming ‘keeper who may get game time later in the season. I wouldn’t recommend spending anymore than $11.0 of your budget on the two goalkeeper positions.

Having five defenders gives you the opportunity to splash out on a back five if you’re the kind of manager who likes banking on reliable centre-backs who rack up clean sheets, interceptions and the odd headed goal. Many prefer to use just three defenders, with attacking full-backs becoming increasingly popular too.

The limit of five midfielders now means that building a successful five-man midfield is significantly harder to achieve. However, the increased budget per player could mean that a spend of $45.0 on your midfield may not be terminal.

Four strikers gives you the chance to have at least one low priced striker to make room elsewhere for a big golden boot challenger. Cheap options like Dominic Oduro ($7.5) and Tesho Akindele ($7.5) could become great investments for the season.

The Formation

There’s only one formation I can recommend for the first weeks of the fantasy season and that’s a 3-5-2. In the unpredictable and occasionally maddening league which is Major League Soccer, the only position you can truly rely on is that of the central midfielder. Regardless of the match, quality of the team or the scoreline – passing bonuses are sure to be gained and so I see players like Dax McCarty ($9.0) and Tony Tchani ($8.0) as safe bets for early points. You could also try a 3-4-3 or 4-4-2 if one of your strikers/defenders is likely to play in a midfield role. In my view, any other formation would be complete anarchism before the tone for the season has been set.

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The Must Haves

The increased budget per player has opened up teams to have three or four massive stars in their starting XI. This is why players like last year’s top points scorer Sebastian Giovinco ($11.5) are definitely worth having in your team for the start of the season. Another player along these lines is Ethan Finlay ($10.5), who will also benefit from the new passing bonus points.

However, this doesn’t mean that the most expensive players are always going to be the highest scoring. Strikers like Innocent Emeghara ($9.0) and Maximiliano Urruti ($8.5) are sure to get more playing time this season and they are both proven goalscorers. In defence, Dallas’ No. 1 Jesse Gonzalez ($6.0) might be worth an investment as FC Dallas have four home games in their first six. This home start makes Zach Loyd ($7.5) a steal at this value. On the cheaper side, Josh Saunders ($5.0) may suddenly have a less porous defensive line in front of him as NYCFC have dramatically bolstered their defensive options this offseason. Four home games in the first five won’t hurt either.

The Risks

A few players picked in this year’s SuperDraft may go straight into the starting lineup of some MLS sides. For example, Joshua Yaro ($6.0) and Brandon Vincent ($5.0) are bound to get plenty of playing time. Jordan Morris ($8.5) joining Seattle Sounders was possibly the biggest deal of the offseason and it’s anyone’s guess whether he’ll hit the ground running, or whether he’ll take more time to progress. The Colorado Rapids’ biggest offseason signing was Shkelzen Gashi ($9.0), who had been the top scorer in the Swiss Super League for the last two seasons. Whether he can single-handedly turn around the Rapids’ dreadful scoring record, I don’t know. The Rapids also have talented defender/midfielder Marlon Hairston ($5.0) returning from injury, but he might not be thrown straight back into the Starting XI from the outset.

The No-No’s

DC United goalkeeper Bill Hamid ($6.0) will be out for at least the first three months of the season and should be ignored. MLS Cup winners Portland have a new left back in Chris Klute ($7.0) but he could easily miss the first games of the season with a knee injury. Nigel De Jong ($9.0) is a new presence in the LA Galaxy midfield, but he is not known for his scoring exploits and is rather more known for racking up yellow cards, so I personally would wait and see if the new scoring system favours him. Also, for his price and his position as a forward in a fantasy squad Giovanni Dos Santos ($11.0) is probably worth a miss until he settles into his new role on the right side of in the Galaxy side.

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The Best Bench Warmers

Cameron Porter ($5.0) should gain significant value if he gets the playing time he was in line to receive before his horrific injury at the beginning of the 2015 season. Along these same lines, Andre Blake ($5.0) could be a starting ‘keeper for Philadelphia this year – and if he’s given the chance – he could become the best bargain ‘keeper in the league. Hadji Barry ($5.0) could also be given the chance to prove himself in a faster, more fluent Orlando City attack – and if he plays to his potential, his price will skyrocket very quickly.

This is just a brief overview of what can be an extremely in-depth game. However, if I were to tell you anymore of my secrets, there would be no point in picking your own team…

All I can do is wish you luck and may the fantasy force be with you!

Who do you think is an absolute must-have in MLS Fantasy 2016?

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2016 MLS Season Preview: San Jose Earthquakes

As the 2016 MLS season edges ever closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what the San Jose Earthquakes could achieve this season.

The 2015 season saw San Jose Earthquakes move into their new Avaya Stadium but unfortunately, they were unable to make the postseason once again. It was a season of some fantastic highs but the ultimate low was missing out on the playoffs for a second-straight season – something head coach Dominic Kinnear will be desperate to fix. The Quakes finished four points behind sixth-placed Sporting Kansas City in the end, but ended relatively well and should push on this term. The loss of DP forward Innocent Emeghara was a bitter pill to swallow early in the season, but he should be back and will look to score the goals to fire San Jose into a playoff berth. Victories away at the likes of Seattle, SKC and DC United showed they could cope with the league’s best but they need to make that form last longer. Dominic Kinnear knows the formula to win MLS Cup, having won it twice with Houston Dynamo in 2006 and 2007 and he would love to lift the title with San Jose come the end of the 2016 season.

Last Season’s Finish:

Western Conference – Position: 7th – P34 – W13 – D8 – L13

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What Needs To Change This Year?

San Jose must improve their away form, following ten defeats on the road in 2015. That’s just not good enough if you are looking to make the top six. Despite boasting the third-best defensive record in MLS last term, their offensive play let them down. They ranked third from bottom in terms of goal output, having netted just 41 times. More goals will lead to more success. Chris Wondolowski knows how to score goals and he keeps on getting them, having now reached over 100 in MLS – being the fastest to achieve this feat. But the rest of the squad need to chip in with their fair share to ease the burden on the American. Chad Barrett has come in from Seattle Sounders and will look to help, while Simon Dawkins will be tasked with getting assists. It has potential to be an enormous season for the Quakes if they can learn from last year’s deficiencies.

Key Changes:

Ins: Chad Barrett – Forward, Simon Dawkins – Midfielder, Andres Imperiale – Defender, Andrew Tarbell – Goalkeeper & Alberto Quintero – Midfielder

Outs: Mike Fucito  Forward, Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi  Midfielder, Khari Stephenson – Midfielder, Paulo Renato – Defender, Tomas Gomez – Goalkeeper, Leandro Barrera – Midfielder

Key Player:

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Innocent Emeghara – Forward – The Swiss striker will feel like a new signing for San Jose, having only made seven appearances last season before his season-ending knee injury. With 76 goals scored in his professional career, he will look to put the Earthquakes back on the map and into the playoff picture as he looks to win his first major honour. If he can stay healthy, he could prove to be one of the league’s deadliest strikers in 2016.

One to Watch:

Simon Dawkins – Midfielder – The ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder has returned back to San Jose, having won the Supporters’ Shield with the club back in 2012. He could be the lucky omen that gets the Quakes into the playoffs once again and will hope to shine on his return to MLS. He has more than 50 MLS games under his belt and that experience should help Dawkins to settle straight back into the league. It’s now time for the 28-year-old to flourish again.

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Predicted Finish:

Western Conference – 6th  This time round we expect the Quakes to make the playoffs. They are a team that is battling in a very tight and competitive Western Conference but they had the third-best defence in MLS last term and have strengthened this offseason. Chris Wondolowski will get goals, as will the likes of Quincy Amarikwa and Innocent. They have a fine manager in Dominic Kinnear, who knows the league inside out and things look good for the Quakes. The teams around them have done some very good business and San Jose will struggle to challenge high up the standings, but they should be able to secure a top six finish. Here’s to what could be a great season in San Jose, California.

What are you expecting from San Jose Earthquakes in 2016?

MLS Preview and Prediction: San Jose Earthquakes vs Vancouver Whitecaps

Competition: Major League Soccer – San Jose Earthquakes vs. Vancouver Whitecaps 

Venue: Avaya Stadium – Saturday, April 11th – 10:30 ET (03:30 BST)

Match Odds: San Jose Earthquakes 7/5 – Draw 12/5 – Vancouver Whitecaps 9/5

Match Preview

San Jose Earthquakes welcome Western Conference leaders, Vancouver Whitecaps, to Avaya Stadium this Saturday.

The Quakes have lost their last two after back-to-back wins and are sitting seventh in the Western Conference after five weeks of play.

Their 1-0 defeat to Real Salt Lake last weekend was a disappointing result but not a lot can be done to avoid conceding a goal like Javier Morales’ strike, so Quakes can feel a little hard-done by, especially as they showed promise for much of the game.

The Whitecaps’ four-game win streak came to an end on Wednesday night with their 2-2 draw against the Columbus Crew. After losing their first of the season, Carl Robinson has been getting it right and his side are now leading the way in the Supporters’ Shield standings after going unbeaten in five.

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Vancouver’s impressive run is being helped no end by the scintillating form of forward Octavio Rivero, who has five in six and tops the MLS scoring charts early on this season.

For the Quakes, Chris Wondolowski has enjoyed a good start to the season too and has netted three in five. His partnership with Innocent Emeghara could prove to be a hit this campaign, though the two will not feature together this weekend as Emeghara is suspended.

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The last two meetings between these two in San Jose have ended 0-0 so we are hoping for a bit more entertainment in their first clash at Avaya Stadium.

Team News

San Jose Earthquakes are littered with injuries at the moment as Mark Sherrod, Steven Lenhart, Jordan Stewart, Paulo Renato, Marvell Wynne and Shaun Francis are expected to miss out. They will also be without Innocent Emeghara as he is suspended for one game so Dominic Kinnear has his options limited.

Vancouver Whitecaps are set to be without three as Andre Lewis, Mauro Rosales and Marco Bustos are set to miss out. Gershon Koffie is battling a knee injury but should be fit to play. We could see some changes from Carl Robinson after his side played on Wednesday night and he could be looking to keep things fresh with squad rotation. Kekuta Manneh started that game on the bench but should start in this one.

Key Points

San Jose Earthquakes’ form: L/W/W/L/L

Vancouver Whitecaps’ form: W/W/W/W/D

Key Stat: Unbeaten – The Whitecaps haven’t lost to the Quakes since 2012 and given their form, it’s hard to see past that run continuing.

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Key Player: Octavio Rivero – If the service is as good as it has been all season we could see Rivero continue his remarkable scoring run.

Score Prediction

San Jose Earthquakes 1-2 Vancouver Whitecaps – The Quakes have suffered two losses on the bounce and given how good the Whitecaps have been, they should still be top of the Western Conference after the weekend.

MLS Preview and Prediction: San Jose Earthquakes vs Chicago Fire

Competition: Major League Soccer – San Jose Earthquakes vs. Chicago Fire

Venue: Avaya Stadium – Sunday, March 22 – 19:00 ET (23:00 GMT)

Match Odds: San Jose 10/11 – Draw 12/5 – Chicago Fire – 3/1

Match Preview

San Jose Earthquakes entertain Chicago Fire this Sunday in their first-ever game at their new Avaya Stadium.

The Quakes shocked everybody last weekend by beating the Seattle Sounders 3-2 away from home and have put themselves in a really strong position for their home opener.

Chicago Fire have lost their opening two games, without scoring a goal, and will be eager to get off the mark this weekend. They are still not quite on song yet which isn’t too surprising given their changes through the offseason. The players need to gel and get going, and a win will certainly boost confidence.

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San Jose responded positively to falling behind in the first minute away at Seattle last Saturday and the three goals scored after will be a major boost for the side. Given that was an away game it would have been easy for heads to drop and receive a thumping against one of Major League Soccer’s strongest sides, but it was a real signal of intent from Dominic Kinnear’s side in the end.

Chicago are coming into this game as underdogs and the atmosphere will be so intense given the Quakes’ result against Seattle and as it is their first home game in their new stadium, the fans will be buzzing.

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The Fire need to get at least a point out of this game as three losses on the bounce spells trouble even this early on in the season.

Team News

San Jose Earthquakes have five injury concerns ahead of the game as Mark Sherrod (knee), Steven Lenhart (knee), Mike Fucito (hip), Jordan Stewart (calf) all look set to miss out, while Clarence Goodson is a doubt with a foot strain. But the Quakes should start Designated Player Innocent Emeghara once again as he was a real threat in his first start last weekend, scoring a fine solo goal in the second-half. Chris Wondolowski got two last week and they seem to have clicked and will be under the spotlight for this game in attack.

Chicago Fire will be without Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko, who will both be missing for a large chunk of this season. Razvan Cocis, Sean Johnson and David Accam look doubtful so Frank Yallop has his options limited. Shaun Maloney has yet to show his capabilities but should start behind Quincy Amarikwa once again.

San Jose Earthquakes’ form: L/W

Chicago Fire’s form: L/L

Key Stat: Home advantage – Chicago haven’t won away to San Jose Earthquakes since 2010. Let’s see if their fortunes change with the new stadium now in use.

Avaya Stadium San Jose Earthquakes

The San Jose Earthquakes will be looking to win their first game at the new Avaya Stadium on Sunday night

Key Player: Innocent Emeghara – The pacey forward will be high in confidence after such a big goal in a big game last weekend but needs to prove he can do it consistently. What better stage to follow that up than in the club’s first game at Avaya Stadium?

Score Prediction

San Jose Earthquakes 2-1 Chicago – The Quakes will be feeling great ahead of this game and the atmosphere in the Avaya Stadium will be rocking. They can put themselves in a really strong position with two wins from their first three and heap more misery on a struggling Chicago Fire side that doesn’t look good enough to ruin the occasion.

MLSGB Goal of the Week: Innocent Emeghara takes Week 2 award

Our second Goal of the Week vote is now closed and you have voted San Jose Earthquakes attacker Innocent Emeghara for this week’s award.

Emeghara made the most of his first start for the Earthquakes as he scored his side’s third goal in that impressive 3-2 win against the Seattle Sounders last weekend.

His solo effort saw him carry the ball half the pitch, eventually cutting inside Brad Evans and slotting into the far corner, leaving Evans on the floor.

The San Jose DP took the Week 2 award with 60% of the votes. David Villa was the runner-up for his excellent finish in New York City FC’s 2-0 win against New England.

Here’s another look at your Goal of the Week for Week 2:

Innocent Emeghara’s fine goal against Seattle Sounders (via Seattle Sounders on YouTube):

Podcast: David Villa, NYCFC, San Jose Earthquakes & Sunderland

In this week’s MLSGB Podcast Zack Walford talks to Louis East and Jamie Ives about the latest weekend of MLS action as we chat David Villa and New York City as well as the San Jose Earthquakes and their hopes for the season. We also discuss Sunderland after Gus Poyet was replaced by Dick Advocaat at the Stadium of light this week and the Black Cats’ chances of Premier League survival.

MLS Goal of the Week: Week 2 – Vote now!

The second round of matches in the new MLS season provided us with plenty of goals this weekend as there were 25 goals scored in the eight matches.

That’s a big rise from the 16 scored last weekend, even though there were two fewer matches and it’s now time for you to vote for your favourite goal of week 2!

We’ve picked five of what we think are the best goals this weekend and you can vote for your favourite below. Voting will close at midnight in the UK on Thursday.

Goal A: Fabian Castillo – FC Dallas

Goal B: Fanendo Adi – Portland Timbers

Goal C: David Villa – New York City FC

Goal D: Innocent Emeghara – San Jose Earthquakes

Goal E: Javier Morales – Real Salt Lake

MLS 2015 Season Preview: San Jose Earthquakes

As the 2015 season is now less than a week away excitement is building. We’ve had a new MLS 2015 Season Preview up everyday in the build up and today we take a look at what the San Jose Earthquakes will be looking to do this season…

The San Jose Earthquakes are looking like a new team ahead of the 2015 season. They have a new manager as Dominic Kinnear has returned after eight seasons with the Houston Dynamo, a new Designated Player in Innocent Emeghara and most importantly a new stadium as San Jose begin life in the brand new Avaya Stadium in 2015. Last year was disappointing. There’s no hiding that as the Earthquakes won just six games (their lowest tally ever) and finished bottom of the Western Conference. Things can only improve and the club will hope a new stadium will breathe a sense of fresh belief into the players and fans alike.

Last season’s finish: Western Conference position: 9th – P34 – W6 – D12 – L16

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What needs to change this year?

Firstly, the San Jose Earthquakes need to start winning more games. They won just six last year and finished the season without a victory in 15 straight games. That is incredibly poor and needs to change immediately. The Earthquakes also need to improve away from home as they picked up just one win on the road in 2014. Defensively, they were pretty solid considering their bottom-placed finish but scoring goals was a major problem as they netted just 35 times in 34 games – the second worst record in MLS last year. A lot needs to change on the pitch but a lot has changed throughout the club, including the actual pitch they will be playing on. Dominic Kinnear will hope to bring success back to the team in his first year back in charge but that will be no easy task in a highly competitive Western Conference.

Key changes to the squad:

Ins: Leandro Barrera – Midfielder, Mark Sherrod – Forward, Marvell Wynne – Defender, Sanna Nyassi – Midfielder, Fatai Alashe – Midfield, Innocent Emeghara (Designated Player) – Forward, Paulo Renato – Defender.

Outs: Jason Hernandez – Defender, Jon Busch – Goalkeeper, Atiba Harris – Midfielder, Yannick Djalo – Midfielder, Sam Cronin – Midfielder,

Key Player: Innocent Emeghara – Forward

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Innocent Emeghara has been brought in as a Designated Player in the hope that he will score the goals to fire San Jose back into playoff contention in the Western Conference this season. The Swiss striker has bundles of pace and will inject some much needed life into an Earthquakes attack that underperformed in 2014. Chris Wondolowski will hope to form a successful partnership with Emeghara this season and make sure you keep an eye on the 25-year-old new boy because he could be dangerous.

One to watch: Fatai Alashe – Midfield

Fatai Alashe was selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft in January and could play a key part for the Quakes in his debut MLS campaign. He is not afraid of a tackle and the 21-year-old could really improve San Jose in the middle of the park if he is given minutes by Kinnear. His energetic play could turn defence into attack with the blink of an eye and make the Earthquakes one of the most dynamic teams in MLS this season. Watch Alashe as he could be set for a big year.

Predicted finish: Western Conference – 9th

Although things look set to improve for the San Jose Earthquakes in 2015, it’s difficult to see them finishing above so many quality sides in a frightening looking Western Conference. The additions of the Houston Dynamo and Sporting Kansas City have only made the conference more difficult and although San Jose won’t finish bottom this year, they will have to accept a third straight year without postseason soccer.

What are you expecting from the San Jose Earthquakes in 2015?

Innocent Emeghara full of passion and expectation with San Jose

New San Jose Earthquakes signing Innocent Emeghara has wasted no time in getting involved with the team as he trained with his new teammates at the earliest opportunity after officially joining the club on Monday.

The Swiss striker joins the Earthquakes as a Designated Player and he has outlined his message for the fans in a video interview on the club’s official site that showed how excited the 25-year-old is to be involved in MLS with the team.

Emeghara is the fourth San Jose DP in the club’s history and he joins the team at a time when the future’s looking bright as the team prepare to play in their brand new Avaya Stadium in 2015 under returning head coach Dominic Kinnear.

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The Quakes finished bottom of the Western Conference with just six wins last season, the joint lowest in MLS, and so things can only improve.

Emeghara showed real passion in his introductory interview as he signalled his intentions for the season:

“America is the future,” he said. “I will try to do my best job in the best city and in the best country in the world.

“When I’m on the pitch I just like to play football and to do everything just to help the team. Football is a team game and it’s very important that I work together with the coach, the team and we have to try to win every game.

“That’s the first step we have to take. We must try to win every game. In every training session we have to give everything.”

Emeghara is blessed with pace and he will hope to help San Jose get off to a fast start in MLS when the new season gets underway next month.

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He went on to address the fans in his interview and his words will fill even the most pessimistic Earthquakes fan with some optimism.

“For the fans, I am happy to be here and I think you are also happy to have me here. We have a new home now, a new stadium with new players.

“I want you to come and watch the matches and see how good and hardworking we are and we are going to give you the best we can and do everything to win every match.”

Emeghara looks like he could be a fan-favourite straight away in San Jose and supporters will hope the passion he showed in his message will be translated by his performances on the pitch.

Will Innocent Emeghara be a star with the San Jose Earthquakes in MLS this season?

Five facts about new San Jose Earthquakes DP Innocent Emeghara

The San Jose Earthquakes have added a third Designated Player by signing 25-year-old Swiss striker Innocent Emeghara.

Emeghara has enjoyed time playing in Switzerland, France, Italy and most recently Azerbaijan and joins the Earthquakes as only their fourth ever DP.

Here are five things you should know about Innocent Emeghara:

1) Emeghara is a pacey and versatile forward who can play on either wing or as the main striker

The new San Jose man is blessed with pace and his speed means he is a huge threat in the final third. Emeghara can play on the left or right hand side but he is most effective as the main striker. He is not the biggest of forwards but he is agile and could form a lethal partnership with Chris Wondolowski this season.

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2) He has made nine appearances with the Switzerland National Team

Despite being born in Nigeria, Emeghara opted to represent Switzerland at international level and he made his debut against England in a Euro 2012 qualifier in June 2011. He has gone on to make nine appearances but has yet to score a goal for the national team. His last appearance came in March 2013 when he made just his second start in a World Cup qualifier against Cyprus. He did score five goals in eight appearances at Under-21 level.

3) He most recently played in Azerbaijan where he impressed before going on trial with Hamburg

After leaving Italian club AC Siena last summer as a result of the club going into liquidation, Emeghara moved to Azerbaijan to play for FK Qarabag, where he scored five times in eight appearances. However, he left the club on January 5 and then flew out to Dubai for a trial with German club HSV Hamburg where he played against Manchester City in a friendly. That didn’t earn him a contract with the Bundesliga side and he will now look forward to playing in MLS with the San Jose Earthquakes.

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4) Emeghara averages a goal or assist every 2.2 games through his career

The 25-year-old forward has scored 75 goals and picked up 23 assists in 212 appearances for the seven clubs he’s played for to this point. That means that Emeghara contributes to a goal every 2.2 games on average. He will look to hit the ground running when he joins up with his new San Jose teammates.

5) Expect a fast start to life in MLS, quite literally.

Emeghara likes to make an impact when he moves to a new club. He has scored on his debut for three different clubs in his career, while he netted four in three after his debut with Siena and scored a brace in his second game for Qarabag. San Jose will hope that trend continues when they open the 2015 season against FC Dallas.

Is Innocent Emeghara a good signing for the San Jose Earthquakes?