SANTA CLARA, Calif. – With the San Jose Earthquakes safely through their last congested stretch of the 2012 MLS schedule, head coach Frank Yallop said that he won’t be looking to give his regulars a weekend holiday in any of his club’s final four matches.
However, that doesn’t mean that Yallop will be whipping his first-choice team like a racehorse down the backstretch – which is why the Quakes could be making do without dangerous midfielder Simon Dawkins when San Jose host FC Dallas on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, streamed LIVE online).
Dawkins uncorked his eighth goal of the season in the second minute of San Jose’s 2-1 win against Seattle last weekend, but had to leave on the hour mark after tweaking his right ankle. The Englishman did not practice Thursday and his availability against Dallas will be contingent on passing a fitness test Friday.
“We’re not going to rest guys now all of a sudden [because] we’ve made the playoffs,” Yallop told reporters after training. “We want to make sure we’re playing well, focused and together heading into the playoffs. That’s important.
“But, again, anyone who has anything [injury-wise], we won’t risk him, for sure. ‘Risk’ is a different word from ‘resting.’”
“Resting” also has different meanings for Yallop. The coach doesn’t want to bench players simply for the sake of avoiding injury, but is willing to do so if it can help a player – as it clearly did in the case of Chris Wondolowski, who came on as a reserve for the first time in nearly two years against Portland last Wednesday and provided a point-saving brace in the second half.
“We’re trying to get the Supporters’ Shield,” said Yallop, whose club leads Sporting Kansas City by five points in that race. “It’s unfair for our team that’s gone all the way, guys have played and put the minutes in, all that fighting and scrapping, to leave them out. If you look at what I did to Wondo on Wednesday, it wasn’t like he needed the rest. I needed to change the lineup to give him a better chance of scoring against Portland, and he did that, and it was fantastic. ...
“Even if it’s half a game off, it just rests your mind a little bit, your body, and I think it’s really worked for Chris. He’s back to his very best.”
If Dawkins is unable to face Dallas, Yallop should have plenty of replacements to choose from. Marvin Chávez and Shea Salinas both practiced Thursday and appear ready to return from three- and six-match absences due to muscle strains.
Defender Ike Opara, troubled by pain after suffering a major collision with Portland goalkeeper Joe Bendik last week, is expected to sit out for a second straight contest.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.