The San Jose Earthquakes are hoping their revitalized defense does not have to undergo another change on the fly.
Quakes interim head coach Mark Watson said Tuesday that US international Clarence Goodson – whose arrival has helped San Jose put together a string of five shutouts in the last 10 league matches – has a right knee problem that may limit his availability for San Jose's match at Chivas USA on Sunday.
“It wasn’t a major injury, but he’s got a little issue that we’re trying to work through,” Watson said of Goodson, who checked out in the 71st minute of San Jose’s 2-1 win against Real Salt Lake this past Saturday. “I think from what we’ve heard so far – although I think he’s going to have a scan – is that he has a good chance of being available Sunday.”
A team spokesman said Goodson will be listed as questionable with a bone bruise in his right knee for the Quakes’ trip to the StubHub Center.
Change has been a constant for the Quakes’ defense this season. San Jose have used 14 different combinations along the back line, although they’ve settled recently on the quartet of Goodson, Steven Beitashour, Victor Bernardez and Jordan Stewart. That group has started six of the last eight matches.
Watson said when he took over in June that it would be a long process to change the Quakes’ habits, and he was proved right: San Jose allowed nine goals in the first five matches following the abrupt departure of former coach Frank Yallop. Since then, however, they have allowed just nine goals in the last 10 games.
Yet goalkeeper Jon Busch said it is not simply the infusion of 30-somethings Goodson and Stewart that has firmed things up in the back for San Jose. Busch credits a concentrated, team-wide effort at maintaining a sound defensive posture at all times, even when attacking.
“Honestly, I think it’s more of just a mental thing, of being aware of it,” Busch said. “We’ve done it regardless of who’s been on the field, whether it’s with [Goodson and Stewart] or without them. ...
"When we kind of forget the defensive side of things and just go forward with numbers, no matter who you have out there, you’re going to put yourself in bad spots. So we have to be cognizant of our defensive shape every moment of the game, because our thought process has to be, ‘If we turn the ball over now, are we in good shape to deal with a counterattack.’”
If Goodson cannot start on Sunday, former starter Jason Hernandez will likely be called upon to again partner Bernardez at center back.
“In the first half of the season, we were getting punished for small lapses in concentration and small mistakes,” Hernandez said. “I think Watty has done a good job of making sure we pay attention to those details in training and in film [sessions], and therefore we learn from those mistakes, and we’re not making them again.
"Unfortunately, it took us getting burned a couple of times, but we’re paying the right amount of attention in the right places on the field, and we’re getting the job done.”