SANTA CLARA, Calif. – There’s only one certainty with regards to the San Jose Earthquakes’ starting lineup for their third-round US Open Cup match on Tuesday night (10:30 pm ET): Second-year goalkeeper David Bingham will see his initial first-team action of the season.
Everything else is up for grabs when it comes to what players coach Frank Yallop will select to face the Fort Lauderdale Strikers of the NASL at Stanford University's Cagan Stadium, which will be San Jose’s fourth game in 11 days.
“The scheduling’s a nightmare, to be honest,” Yallop said last week. “We fly back on Monday from Kansas City, and play an Open Cup game on Tuesday night. That’s crazy. That’s an injury waiting to happen, so I’m not happy about that. It’s not fair for the players. We want to do well in every competition.”
Chris Wondolowski and Víctor Bernárdez are on national-team duty with the United States and Honduras, respectively. Outside of those absences, Yallop is going to try to strike a balance between success and developing some of the younger, more inexperienced members of the roster.
It’s one the Quakes haven’t been particularly good at in the past – they’ve never been a major factor in the Open Cup. And Yallop acknowledged that “we’ll have to make changes” on top of the insertion of Bingham.
But the question is how much is too much? Defenders Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow have played all 1,260 minutes this year, but without Bernárdez, the Quakes are thin on the backline, especially at Beitashour’s right back spot.
“If you put one or two [lesser-used players] into a team that’s flowing and doing well, they’re fine,” Yallop said. “When you put six guys that have not played a lot of minutes, it’s hard for them. You want to give them every opportunity to play with a team that’s moving the ball well and doing good things.”
For Bingham, who hasn’t seen time with the first team since the next-to-last game of 2011, it will be a welcomed chance to sharpen up his skills – no matter who’s on the backline in front of him.
“Reserve games are fun, but it’s nothing like really playing in a competitive environment,” Bingham said. “I’m definitely looking forward to the Open Cup. Hopefully we can do well. What is it, four games, and you win the whole thing? So hopefully we play four.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.