SANTA CLARA, Calif. – In the last month, Chris Wondolowski has logged more air miles than some professional pilots. Yet San Jose Earthquakes interim coach Mark Watson knows it will be nearly impossible to omit the club’s captain when it comes to penciling out his lineup as the Quakes host Chivas USA on Saturday night (10 pm ET, Univision Deportes/MLS Live).
“Keeping him off the field is one of the toughest jobs you have to do,” Watson told reporters Thursday, as Wondolowski was busy flying back from his 45-minute stint in the MLS All-Star Game the previous evening. “He’s someone that wants to train the day after a game. ... The regeneration session doesn’t normally work for him. He just wants to play.”
The return of an in-form Wondolowski would be a boon for San Jose, who will be lacking some of their usual pace on the wings as they try to extend their first winning streak of the season to three straight league matches.
Marvin Chávez will serve a one-game suspension for seeing two yellow cards against Portland last weekend, and incoming winger Jaime Alas – who only arrived on Wednesday after a lengthy process sorting out his visa paperwork in his native El Salvador – doesn’t sound like a man who’s ready to go for a full 90 minutes just yet.
“I need to get the rhythm back of playing, need to get some minutes under my belt and then move on and try to play more and more,” Alas told reporters through a team translator. “That’s where I’m at right now.”
The Quakes have coveted Alas since the 23-year-old made an instant impact for El Salvador at the 2011 Gold Cup. Now he’s got 12 league matches and four group games in CONCACAF Champions League play to show his worth before his loan from Norwegian side Rosenborg BK runs out.
“I’m here originally for six months, but it’s a great place,” Alas said. “I want to play and prove myself. If I stay here, that would be great. I want to give the team a lot of joy with my play. ... Hopefully I bring some speed, a change of pace, intelligence on the field with the ball, and a good shot. But the key thing is, I have to work well with my teammates and connect really well with the group and make an impact there. That’s one of the most important factors.”
There is another wrinkle for Watson to contend with; San Jose debut in CONCACAF Champions League play next week with a trip to Montreal to face the MLS leaders (in terms of points per match). It’s the first of four midweek games shoehorned into the Quakes’ schedule, which will test their roster.
“The depth is coming at a good time,” Watson said. “Both tournaments are important in their own right. I think ultimately, we’re probably judged on whether we make the playoffs or not. But to get a good run in the Champions League would be something that we’d like to do as well.”