As bad as things have been of late for the San Jose Earthquakes with regards to player availability, they could have been worse: If Alan Gordon had been a little quicker at finding the vein of form he’s shown this past week, he might have been on Gold Cup duty for the United States.
That likely would have proved disastrous for the Quakes, who need all hands on deck as they try to ramp up their chase for a playoff spot in the crowded Western Conference field. After going scoreless through the season’s first half, Gordon has three goals in his last two matches, including a game-winner in second-half stoppage time against the LA Galaxy last Saturday and another in the Quakes’ 3-2 loss to the Fire.
“I knew things were going to come,” Gordon told MLSsoccer.com by phone Friday from Massachusetts, where the Quakes will face New England on Saturday night (7:30 pm ET, watch on MLS Live). “I wasn’t worried about me going scoreless all year. I was just trying to put my head down, stay positive within myself, stay confident and do the right things.”
The same can be said for San Jose, who dressed only 16 players against Chicago on Wednesday, their numbers decimated by a combination of national-team callups (Nana Attakora, Marvin Chavez, Clarence Goodson, Chris Wondolowski), injuries (Ramiro Corrales, Mike Fucito, Ty Harden, Steven Lenhart) and suspensions (Victor Bernardez, Shea Salinas). The only player healthy enough to go who wasn’t in uniform was third-string goalkeeper Evan Newton.
That makes Gordon’s continued contributions that much more important, especially as the club could be without Wondolowski and Chavez — two of the Quakes’ biggest offensive pieces — through the end of this month, depending on how far the US and Honduras go in the Gold Cup.
“We’ve got some tough challenges with a lot of important guys out, but we’ve been dealing with that all year,” Gordon said. “So we’ve got to do the best we can do, the guys we do have available, and get some points while we’re waiting for some guys to get back.”
As far back as February, Gordon was one of the first Quakes to mention that San Jose had learned from the template set by the Galaxy last year — that coming together in the final months of the regular season and hitting the playoffs in full stride was more important, in terms of winning an MLS Cup, than playing well throughout the regular season.
That being said, Gordon and San Jose know that there’s no more time to lose. As things currently stand in the West, the Vancouver Whitecaps rank fifth in points per match, at 1.53 — a pace that would put them at 52 points for the season. With 21 points and 15 matches left, the Quakes need to average 2.07 points per match the rest of the way to reach that 52-point target.
“We can’t let this things slip away,” Gordon said. “We’ve got to be in the mix, so we need to start getting points. We can’t keep saying that everything’s going to be OK. We’ve got to do it now and start getting in form.”
There’s also one other wrinkle, as far as Gordon goes. Since the 31-year-old was on the Americans’ preliminary Gold Cup roster, he could be called in for the elimination matches, assuming the US make it out of Group C. Each team that advances is allowed four changes to their current 23-man squad, but the replacements must come from the initial group of 35.
“I’ve always wanted to be on that squad,” Gordon said of the US side. “I would be very happy if something did happen, but my focus is right now is just staying present with this team and doing the best that I can. I’m not worried about things outside of my control. I’m just trying to play well for the Earthquakes here, and if I do, that stuff will take care of itself.”