Injury bug has Quakes holding breath with opener looming

Marvin Chavez and David Ferreira

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SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes plan to bring back 13 of their 14 most-used players from 2012, that much is set in stone.

When they all might be available for selection is another matter entirely.

Upon returning Monday from a week-long stint in Tucson, Ariz., the Quakes were rejoined by US national team camp invitees Steven Beitashour, Justin Morrow and Chris Wondolowski, MLS’ reigning MVP.

But defender Víctor Bernárdez remained on duty with the Honduran national team in their clash against the Americans on Wednesday, and San Jose head coach Frank Yallop acknowledged Tuesday that forward Alan Gordon – the embodiment of the Quakes’ late-game heroics last season – won’t be ready for the club’s March 3 season opener after surgery on his left hip.

The same is likely for midfielder Marvin Chávez (above), injured last month in training with Honduras. Yallop described Chávez’s strained knee ligament as being similar to the injury suffered by Bernárdez last year – a problem which caused the big Honduran to be absent from the Quakes’ lineup for more than two months.

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With Beitashour (sports hernia) and forward Steven Lenhart (right knee meniscus) still working their way back into full training and defender Jason Hernandez (knee) held out of training as a precaution, San Jose have barely half their first-choice XI on hand, with a date against Real Salt Lake looming less than four weeks away.

“I’m a little nervous,” Yallop admitted. “We’ve not really seen many of our guys yet, and we’re two weeks into preseason. It’s up to the rest of the squad to carry that and not worry about it and just get results, which we thought we did pretty well last year.”

Even with the rash of injuries and absences, the Quakes won’t rush to replace escaped transfer target Simon Dawkins, the Tottenham Hotspur midfielder who spent 2011 and ’12 on loan with San Jose. The Quakes had been bidding to secure Dawkins’ services permanently, only to see Spurs instead accept a six-month loan deal with Aston Villa on Jan. 31.

Yallop said the team is still working on possibilities, noting that it’s tougher to do now than in June when more players’ contracts are up.

“If we can get a player of [Dawkins’] quality, that’d be great,” Yallop said. “But to get someone as good as Simon for the price we had is going to be tough. ... We’re not going to panic and just get anybody to fill his spot, because that’d be pointless. If the right person comes along, we’ll look at it closely.”

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San Jose are putting quite a bit of faith in the idea that their injured players won’t take long to gel in the lineup, given that it’s the same group (minus Dawkins) who keyed last year’s franchise-record, Supporters’ Shield-winning 19-6-9 record.

“We’re the same guys,” team captain Ramiro Corrales said. “The chemistry that we built, it’s not only last year. It’s been a few years [in the making], but I think it showed last year.”

One positive of the injuries is that it ensures the Quakes won’t be content to rest on the laurels of 2012.

“Our job, No. 1, is to not be complacent or satisfied with our success last year,” Hernandez said. “I think we all know that it’s a brand new season and it’s going to bring brand-new challenges and adversities and obstacles. And I think we’re determined to not really take our foot off the pedal and make sure we’re coming back with the same attitude, on and off the field.”

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