SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes’ injury woes have gotten so severe that even the coaching staff is no longer safe – assistant Ian Russell needed crutches to leave the training field on Tuesday after the former Quakes defender suffered a partially torn calf during finishing drills.
As the kicker to a season full of absences, all interim coach Mark Watson can do is make rueful light of the Quakes’ plight.
“I’m not even walking quickly, just in case something happens,” Watson joked with MLSsoccer.com Friday, before turning serious. “It’s been an interesting year. ... It’s like the Red Cross around here.”
Maybe a care package is in order, since Watson’s attacking options for use against Portland on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online) – an all but must-win game for San Jose’s playoffs hopes – are dwindling rapidly.
Forwards Alan Gordon and Chris Wondolowski remain on US national team duty. Steven Lenhart, the club’s other 10-goal scorer last season, remains a question mark due to problems with his right knee, which underwent arthroscopic surgery in March 2011 and November 2012.
Watson acknowledged Friday that Lenhart may need another procedure at season’s end.
“We’re still monitoring Lenny and hopefully he’ll feel good tomorrow and be available,” Watson said. “It’s kind of a daily discussion.”
If Lenhart doesn’t feel good, rookie Adam Jahn (above) is the logical replacement up top, especially with Marcus Tracy limping off the field in San Jose’s 1-0 exhibition victory against Norwich City last Saturday.
Wálter Martínez, primarily used by the Quakes as a winger, looked sharp as a second forward against the Canaries, but he pulled up lame in the 51st minute with a strained hamstring and efforts to get him patched up for the Timbers match have been unsuccessful. Cordell Cato and Sam Garza are among the possibilities to play underneath a target forward.
While winger Marvin Chávez, back from Gold Cup duty with Honduras, should man the right wing, new acquisition Jaime Alas is “unlikely” to suit up, Watson said. The El Salvador youth international was still awaiting visa paperwork on Friday, and hasn’t trained with the club since a February training camp stint.
“If we had him in on Thursday, it’d be a ‘yes,’” Watson said of Alas’ potential availability. “If we had him today, it’d be a ‘maybe.’ If he comes in the day of the game off a flight from San Salvador, it’s probably a ‘no.’”
All in all, it’s not a very good recipe for facing a Portland team that has lost only twice this year – and is undefeated (2-0-5) against San Jose in MLS regular-season play since joining the league in 2011.
“The most important thing is we have to do really well at the things we can control,” Watson said. “They’re a tough matchup in terms of [the fact] they press very high. So we have to be able to deal with that. A lot of teams that play against them, they try to possess their way out at the wrong times, and Portland will punish you for doing that.”