SAN JOSE, Calif. — The San Jose Earthquakes set a franchise record last season with 13 shutouts in 30 matches. Things certainly haven’t been the same this year, with just six in their first 22 matches and some defensive issues still left to fix.
But the Quakes are hoping that the availability of Bobby Burling, Jason Hernandez and Steven Beitashour along their backline against Portland on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) will help steady their back line as they try to mount a stretch drive to the playoffs.
“Three quality players for us, and they’re nicely rested, too,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop wryly noted. “Jason and Bobby, I thought, were playing very well until the suspension and injury for both those guys. And Steven Beitashour is having a good season for a young kid. So we’re happy to have them back.”
Burling was forced to miss last week’s game against D.C. United due to a dubious red card he picked up against Real Salt Lake on July 23. (RSL forward Álvaro Saborío was later handed a one-game suspension by the league for diving.)
Hernandez has been out for two weeks with a calf strain. And Beitashour last played July 6, when his right leg folded up awkwardly underneath him as he planted to make a left-footed pass against Chivas USA.
“Anytime you watch your team lose, it’s more motivating, for sure,” Burling said. “[I’m] not happy that we haven’t been getting the results at home. We have two home games coming up, and a chance to pick up some points and jump back up the table.”
With all the absences last week, Yallop was forced to use erstwhile left back Ramiro Corrales in central defense with recently acquired Nana Attakora, who is still regaining his fitness after not playing for nearly two months in Toronto. D.C. United attacker Dwayne De Rosario, a former Quakes star, took over the match with a second-half brace to give the visitors a 2-0 victory.
“I think a lot can be said for team chemistry and defending as a unit,” Hernandez said. “I think having three familiar faces on the back line is going to make a lot of difference. Hopefully, we can pick up where we left off in being able to grind out some results.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes