SAN JOSE -- You've probably never heard of Earthquakes newcomer Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi, but he is a legend in Ajaccio, on the island of Corsica.

The center midfielder was captain of AC Ajaccio in Ligue I, the top league in France, before realizing his American dream.

"Since I was a little child I've always wanted to live in the United States," Pierazzi said through an interpreter. "I've visited America. I know the country, and I've always enjoyed it. This is the time to come here.

"I'm at a moment where MLS is on the way up. It's a new chapter in my life and a time to make a different kind of history for myself."

He's played all 179 games of his professional career for his small hometown club, dating to 2006. Understandably, the people of Corsica, a French island in the Mediterranean Sea, were jolted when they learned he was leaving.

"For them, it was a big thing to lose their player," said Quakes assistant coach Nick Dasovic, who translated for Pierazzi. "But again, they welcomed him. I read the tweets: 'Good luck. We wish you all the best.' So he's left the club at a good moment."

Pierazzi recently told France Football that the United States always fascinated him and that he began learning English months before any conversations with the Earthquakes because he was tired of struggling with the language in visits to the country.

"Everything happens very quickly in (MLS)," Pierazzi told France Football. "When Americans want something, they know what it takes to get it. Since the arrival of (David) Beckham and (Thierry) Henry, it is insane. The stadiums are new, they are always full, and the level of play has improved."

The Quakes are delighted the 28-year-old Corsican has come in the prime of his career. The club will head to Tucson, Ariz., on Monday for its second week of preseason training, with scrimmages scheduled against Seattle on Wednesday and Houston on Saturday.

Pierazzi is the first top-level player from France to come to MLS in his prime, according to Paul Kennedy, editor-in-chief of Soccer America. Others were either on the downside of their careers or couldn't catch on back home.

Right on Pierazzi's heels, French midfielder Vincent Nogueira, 26, captain of FC Sochaux-Montbeliard of Ligue 1, was signed by the Philadelphia Union last week.

Pierazzi believes his move will inspire others to come.

"From me coming here at this age, it's going to entice even the younger Europeans to come into the league, because it's obviously a league that's globally quite accepted right now," said Pierazzi, who signed with San Jose on Jan. 7.

Pierazzi had helped AC Ajaccio move up to the first division in France, but the club is currently facing relegation.

He has appreciated how welcoming the Quakes have been, and his new teammates have noticed his sharpness, fresh off his season in France.

"He's really calm on the ball," Quakes wing Shea Salinas said. "It's impressive. You can tell he already has an idea of what he wants to do with the ball as soon as he gets it. ... I'm excited to start playing with him."

Quakes coach Mark Watson has no complaints about Pierazzi so far.

"He's been great," Watson said. "He hasn't been out of the game long. He just finished the French season, so he's looking great. He's fit. He's healthy, and he's made a good impression on everyone in his short time here."