Quakes protect attacking corps for Expansion Draft

Chris Wondolowski and Stephen Lenhart

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

SAN JOSE, Calif. -- The San Jose Earthquakes never had the potentially high-scoring triumvirate of Alan Gordon, Steven Lenhart and Chris Wondolowski on their active roster at the same time this year.

By putting all three forwards on their protected list for Wednesday’s expansion draft, it’s clear that the Quakes want another chance to see their 2011 attack corps at full strength in 2012.

Lenhart scored five goals and added three assists in just 1,163 minutes this season as the target man at the tip of San Jose’s spear, but missed the final 14 matches on a family leave of absence. Gordon, acquired from Toronto FC to help fill the void left by Lenhart, scored a point-saving goal against Portland in his second appearance but underwent season-ending surgery after that.

WATCH: Lenhart soars for header
Get Microsoft Silverlight

The protection of Gordon and Lenhart from the Montreal Impact says that the Quakes are confident that both men, whose contracts expired at the end of the season, will re-sign with MLS this winter and be back in San Jose.

“Alan and Lenny, if you look at them, they both did pretty well for us,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “Both guys, we want to have them back on our team. For sure.”

The Quakes left a couple of other key out-of-contract contributors on their unprotected list: center backs Bobby Burling and Nana Attakora, the latter of whom just made his second appearance with the Canadian national team in World Cup qualifying this month.

That’s less about the individual players involved, Yallop said, and more about the fact that it’s harder to find -- and keep -- established goal-scorers. It also doesn’t hurt that the Quakes can only lose one of the two at most. San Jose will try to bring back whoever’s left to join Jason Hernandez (protected) and Ike Opara (exempt due to his Generation addidas status) in the center-back mix.

“With Nana and Bobby, maybe losing one of them, we can resign the other,” Yallop said. “We feel we can resign both of them, but you can’t protect everybody.”

The inclusion of English midfielder Simon Dawkins on the list should not be taken by Quakes fans as a sign that the club is nearing an agreement to bring him back, although they remain steadfast in their ardor for the Tottenham Hotspur property. Yallop said he and general manager John Doyle will fly to London next week to meet with Spurs brass and discuss the soon-to-be-24-year-old’s future.

“We’ve got to put him on the list,” Yallop said of Dawkins. “We want to protect our best assets.”

Perhaps the toughest decision was the choice between Sam Cronin and Brad Ring, a pair of young holding midfielders who vied evenly for playing time over much of the season. Cronin eventually got the nod.

“I love Brad Ring,” Yallop said. “I don’t want to see him go, but you can’t put everyone on the list. . . . This is a guessing game, because you’re trying to work out what Montreal want.”

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com.