The San Jose Earthquakes’ center-back shortage has reached an acute level.
With Nana Attakora (concussion), Víctor Bernárdez (suspension) and Ty Harden (right hip surgery) all unavailable, it’s possible the Quakes will take on Real Salt Lake on Saturday (9:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live) with seldom-used defensive midfielder Brad Ring at the heart of their backline.
Coach Frank Yallop said the team is working the phones in search of potential trade partners to fortify a position they thought was well-stocked heading into this season. In addition to the veteran absences, Tommy Muller, the Quakes’ first-round pick in this year’s SuperDraft, has been sidelined all year by back trouble.
“We’re looking right now,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com before training Thursday. “I think center back is a position right now where we’re struggling. So we’ve got to look at that.”
Yallop said that Harden – part of the depth the Quakes brought in this winter – underwent surgery on his right hip this week. A team spokesman said the procedure will keep Harden out for at least three to five months.
Additionally, Attakora told MLSsoccer.com that he suffered a setback that took him back to square one in his recovery from a concussion suffered in a head-to-head collision with Toronto FC’s Doneil Henry on May 8. The Canadian international said that he is progressing again towards full health and hopes to be back for the Quakes’ June 15 match at Colorado.
Before that, however, the Quakes will have to mix and match for at least one more weekend. Justin Morrow can slide into the middle, but veteran Ramiro Corrales – who would typically replace Morrow at left back – has just returned to practice after an ankle knock.
That leaves the likely choices as either using Dan Gargan at left back and Morrow inside, or giving a rare position of prominence to Ring, who has logged just 76 MLS regular-season minutes in the last 18 months.
Ring did get a run-out alongside Bernárdez in San Jose’s defense Tuesday during the Quakes’ 1-0 loss to USL PRO side Charleston Battery in the third round of the US Open Cup. The Indiana product had an up-and-down evening, almost netting a goal off a first-half corner kick via a solid back-post header, but seeing red in the 75th minute after bumping over Charleston forward Dane Kelly as both men chased a long, counterattacking pass from the Battery.
“Brad Ring played in the middle and did fine,” Yallop said. “It might be Brad on the weekend. We’ll see.”
Moving forward, the Quakes have to balance the needs of replacing Harden with finding help elsewhere; after setting a franchise record with 72 goals last season, San Jose ranks 15th thus far among MLS clubs at 0.93 goals per match.
“We need some players elsewhere, also,” Yallop said. “I think that there’s nothing wrong with always looking at our options and trying to make the team better, whatever it means. I look at everything, not just a position that we’re light in.”
Geoff Lepper covers the San Jose Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com.