SAN JOSE, Calif. – By themselves, the San Jose Earthquakes’ injury woes are bad enough to dent the club’s hopes of repeating as Supporters’ Shield winners.
Then the MLS schedule-makers compounded the Quakes’ problems.
With four critical attackers either lost to injury (Marvin Chávez, Alan Gordon, Steven Lenhart) or departure (Simon Dawkins), this is not exactly the moment that San Jose wants to see five 2012 playoff teams in the span of six matches. Unfortunately for the Quakes, that’s exactly what they got, starting last week with Real Salt Lake – who walked away from Buck Shaw Stadium 2-0 winners this past Sunday – and continuing this weekend with New York Red Bulls (Sunday, 10 pm ET, ESPN2/ESPN Deportes, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“I think if you look around the league and want to have a difficulty-of-schedule competition, I’m sure we’re up there,” Quakes defender Jason Hernandez said. “But the fact remains that we were a solid team last year and whether we have our squad at 100 percent, it doesn’t matter. We’re going to do what we have to do with the guys that we have available, and I think that should be more than enough to carry us to get some results.”
For coach Frank Yallop, there’s something more concerning than the Quakes’ schedule in March and early April – which also features visits from Seattle (March 23) and Vancouver (April 6) with a trip to Houston (March 30) thrown in. That’s the fact that San Jose will have played at home eight times by May 18, which might be as long as it takes to get everyone out of sick bay.
“We get to play a lot of home games to start with,” Yallop said. “It’s OK if you’re healthy. You kind of want to play away now and just get those games out of the way, and then you’re fully ready to go and loaded at home. Hopefully on Sunday we get a great result and win and this [RSL] game is forgotten, and away we go. The more you look at the games coming, there’s some quality teams we’re playing.”
That obviously includes the Red Bulls, who bring west a lineup of full of long resumes, such as Thierry Henry, Tim Cahill and Fabián Espíndola – although probably not new midfielder Juninho, troubled by a left calf strain. Nevertheless, Yallop doesn’t expect the star power to be a problem.
“When we’re at full strength, we played well against the Galaxy,” Yallop said. “And there were some real big names in their team last year. So no, I don’t think we’re afraid of anybody. We can’t be.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.