SAN JOSE, Calif. — The one area the San Jose Earthquakes have had locked down this season almost became the latest area of their roster to be ravaged by injury.
Goalkeeper Jon Busch, the only Quake to play every minute in 2011, suffered a broken zygomatic arch just below his right eye and will likely be forced to wear a clear plastic protective mask which covers the top half of his face when San Jose host Chicago on Saturday night (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).
Busch is still expected to start the match, which would be his 27th consecutive league appearance this season.
The fracture occurred when Busch caught an inadvertent elbow during the Quakes’ Aug. 27 match against Toronto FC. It was revealed by X-rays taken after San Jose returned home, three days after the match.
“It really didn’t hurt like I would have thought a fracture would hurt, especially in your face,” Busch said.
Busch has been practicing with his face guard since last Friday and said he “probably could have played” if the Quakes had been scheduled to compete over the Labor Day weekend. He’s still holding out hope that he won’t have to wear the mask on Saturday, but that’s unlikely at best.
“I’m trying to persuade Bruce [Morgan, San Jose’s head athletic trainer] to let me not wear it, but I don’t think that’s going to happen,” Busch said. “The good thing is, it’s actually a lot better than I thought it [would be]. I thought it was going to be tough on the vision, but the guy who made it made the eyes much bigger than normal, so I can see everything. It doesn’t restrict me [in terms] of any sight on the ball, which is nice.
“It’s just sweaty as can be, but as far as my play, it doesn’t impact me at all.”
Coach Frank Yallop was hoping the two-week break between games would allow the Quakes to get healthy, and to some extent it’s helped. Midfielders Brad Ring (right shoulder sprain) and Anthony Ampaipitakwong (left groin strain) were back to full practice schedules this week and likely will be available, if Yallop chooses to include them in the 18.
But second-year man Justin Morrow, who had just stepped into the starting left back spot, is considered doubtful by the coach after sitting out Thursday’s practice with tightness in his right hamstring. Additionally, target forwards Alan Gordon (surgery to repair three torn muscles) and Steven Lenhart (family leave of absence) are still absent and not expected back any time soon.
From a psychological perspective, Yallop said he would have preferred to keep plugging away after an 87th-minute equalizer from Chris Wondolowski gave the Quakes a point via a 1-1 tie against TFC two weeks ago.
“Coming off a positive result in Toronto, you’re looking forward to the next game, not dreading it,” Yallop said. “I think it would have been nice to have played last week after having a decent performance and result. I thought it’d be time for our guys to heal, but Justin’s injured now, and Bobby [Convey] is suspended [for yellow card accumulation]. So we’ve got two guys who’ve done pretty well for us out.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes