San Jose Earthquakes looking for someone to step up if Chris Wondolowski can't go in California Clasico
Last season, when the San Jose Earthquakes came from two goals down to beat the LA Galaxy 4-3 before a 40,000-strong crowd at Stanford Stadium, it was Steven Lenhart who opened the scoring and Chris Wondolowski who ended it.
This year, as the Quakes prepare to once again host the Galaxy for an Independence Day-themed extravaganza at Stanford, San Jose might not have the services of either star forward.
San Jose interim coach Mark Watson wouldn’t shed much light Tuesday on the status of Lenhart and Wondolowski, who both out due to injuries in a 1-0 loss on the road at D.C. United.
A team release described Lenhart as having inflammation in his right knee — the same joint that required arthroscopic surgery in March 2011 and last November — and a Quakes spokesman said Wondolowski suffered a contusion on his right foot in training Wednesday. Neither player was on the pitch Tuesday when media members were allowed entry to the team’s training facility.
“We’re still working on all that stuff at this point,” Watson said. “They’re both working with our medical team and we’ll hopefully know something by the end of [Tuesday].”
The Quakes dealt with injuries for much of the first half of this season, many of them left over from the tail end of the 2012 campaign. It seemed earlier this month that San Jose was finally returning to full strength — only to see another wave of problems crop up, threatening to swamp the Quakes’ bid for a third playoff bid in four seasons.
Halfway through their league slate, last year’s Supporters’ Shield winners sit on 18 points from 17 matches.
“I would like to have all our players available for every game,” Watson said. “Anytime that’s not the case, you’re concerned. When we don’t have Wondo and Lenny, we’re missing some of our best players.”
In addition to Lenhart and Wondolowski, forward Alan Gordon and right back Steven Beitashour were noticeably absent from training Tuesday, although Watson described those moves as being precautionary and said both men were expected to practice Thursday with an eye towards facing the Galaxy.
Any Wondolowski absence would be keenly felt, not just for the fact that he has led MLS with 66 goals since 2010 but because of his status as the club’s only active Designated Player and, often, its captain.
“I think he’s a big part of our leadership group,” Watson said of Wondolowski. “He’s the reigning MVP, the scoring champion, so he’s a big part of us. I think the players understand that, and when he’s not in the lineup, I think they want to do a little bit extra to make up for his absence.”
Certainly, that will be true if Wondolowski can’t go Saturday and attempt to reprise his game-winning goal from last year’s Galaxy match at Stanford — a twirling, side-footed job that was followed up by Wondolowski saluting uniformed members of the US military standing just beyond the field-level advertising boards.
“Wondo’s a big part of our team and we depend a lot on him,” Quakes midfielder Rafael Baca said. “Spaces open up because Wondo’s a target. But I feel in this situation, someone has to step up. Someone has to be that leader. Someone has to have that hunger like Wondo has to score goals."