SAN JOSE, Calif. — The door of opportunity is standing wide open in the San Jose Earthquakes midfield. It’s up to seldom-used third-year man Brad Ring to make sure he’s the guy who walks through it.
As San Jose travel to Vancouver for their Wednesday matchup (10 pm ET, Direct Kick, MatchDay Live), Ring is a leading candidate to try to fill the spot in central midfield left by the absence of Simon Dawkins, who underwent surgery on Friday and is expected to be out one to two months.
Last week, coach Frank Yallop turned his lineup upside-down in the wake of two disappointing losses and Dawkins’ injury. For the Quakes’ MLS game at Philadelphia, he gave five players, including Ring, their first start of 2011. Three days later in a US Open Cup qualifier at Portland, Yallop held over only three players from the Union match: tireless star Chris Wondolowski, defender Bobby Burling and Ring.
The 24-year-old former Indiana star went from box to box for the full 120 minutes against the Timbers.
Yallop cautions against reading too much into his choices from the Union and Timbers matches, especially since San Jose will face another quick turnaround this week. After taking on the Whitecaps in Vancouver, the Quakes return home to host Columbus on Saturday.
“You look at everything: How the regulars have played, what the commitment’s been like in the last two games, the performances,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com of his lineup choices. “You can’t just say, ‘I think that they’re going to play well.’ I want to know that they’re going to be ready to go and play well.”
Ring hopes that he showed enough in those recent appearances — essentially his first of the season, unless you count a one-minute stint in Dallas on March 26 — to earn first crack at taking over for Dawkins.
“I can’t do what Simon does, and I don’t think Simon can do what I do,” Ring told MLSsoccer.com. “Every player’s different. I bring something different to the table. Hopefully the coaches like what I bring to the table and give me a chance to step in there.”
Ring’s introduction helped San Jose settle down what had been a shaky defense. The only goal allowed by the Quakes in Ring’s 210 minutes was a hard-luck penalty called against Jason Hernandez that proved to be the margin in Philadelphia’s 1-0 victory.
“I thought I had good fight, good bite in the middle, got into some good tackles in both games,” Ring said. “But also, I wanted to get on the ball a little bit more and switch the field for us.”
Switching sides on the attack may prove to be crucial in Vancouver. The Quakes have nobody, including Ring, who can control play and create space off the dribble in the center of the pitch the way Dawkins does. It’s likely that San Jose will have to abandon — In the short term, at least — the 4-3-3 they used with Dawkins in favor of their tried-and-true 4-4-2, with the attack beginning on the wings.
“I think it’s going to be a group effort,” Ring said. “We’re kind of messing around with a 4-4-2, so obviously, it’s going to be a different style that we’re going to be playing without him in there.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes