The San Jose Earthquakes haven't had a home game in nearly a month, but that is not why their fans are going to need to listen intently to the player introductions this weekend.
San Jose, coming off a 1-2 road swing through Los Angeles, Colorado and Kansas City, returns home Saturday night to take on D.C. United at Spartan Stadium. And there will be several new faces in the lineup from the team that tied FC Dallas 0-0 on May 14 in its most recent home game.
Former Los Angeles Galaxy players Danny Califf and Chris Aloisi, as well as MLS veteran Mark Chung, will be making their Earthquakes home debuts against D.C. United. For Califf, a former fixture on the U.S. national team, it has been a long road back from an injury-plagued 2004 season, in which he played a career-low 13 games. Califf suffered through complications following a right knee MCL sprain which kept him out of action until May 25, when he made his first appearance with San Jose in a 1-0 win over Colorado.
"I think I'm all the way there, aside from the last two or three percent," said Califf. "It's taken a little bit of time and there are things that don't feel the same before the surgery, but they don't hurt, so that's a quality sign."
In Califf, the Quakes get a seasoned MLS veteran who is able to lend stability to a backline that has been decimated by injuries. Center back Troy Dayak (torn left ACL) was forced into an early retirement, while right back Craig Waibel (torn right ACL/LCL) is also lost for the season.
"He's a bit more of a communicator than most", said San Jose head coach Dominic Kinnear. "He's telling people where to go, what to do, and I think that's one of the things that we've needed."
The injuries have paved the way for Aloisi, a second-year pro, to get the latest shot at the right back spot. With Ricardo Clark taking the place of Danny O'Rourke at defensive midfield behind playmaker Dwayne De Rosario, Aloisi has fit in well with his new club.
"I'm sure Chris will adjust very quickly," said Kinnear, noting that Aloisi has not played in the narrow confines of Spartan Stadium before. "He's done well for us because he's been paying attention all season."
A familiar foe will also be making his Spartan debut as a member of the Earthquakes, as Chung, acquired from the Rapids on May 26, will be in the lineup on Saturday. Chung, a veteran of 10 MLS seasons, is playing with his fourth MLS team, having served with Kansas City, the MetroStars and Colorado.
"I'm very excited. I just want to win a championship with this team -- they've done it before and have the players to do it again," said Chung. "Everyone wants to be a part of a winner. With Dominic and [assistant coach] John (Doyle) here and the way they play, I'm just excited to be on a team that plays the ball on the ground and creates a lot of chances."
A player known for his deadly left-footed shot, Chung has been playing on the right side of midfield for San Jose. With league-leading assist man Brad Davis establishing himself as a fixture on the left side, the Earthquakes hope that Chung can use his ability to cut inside to unleash a few left-footed blasts, something he has already been able to accomplish in his brief time with the club.
"First and foremost, he's a good soccer player," said Kinnear. "He rarely loses the ball, keeps the ball moving, makes the right decisions on the field. If we can get him more forward where he is cutting in -- because he can strike a ball from distance -- that will add to the attack."
In D.C. United, the Quakes are taking on a team with similar issues at this point in the season. Both teams have scored exactly as many goals as they have allowed, and D.C. United finds itself in fifth place in the ultra-competitive Eastern Conference. Freddy Adu will be with the U.S. U-20 team, while regular starter Clyde Simms will be with the senior U.S. team as it faces Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier this Saturday.
Danny Kadah is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.