Despite promising glimpses of what Yannick Djaló can add to their attack, the San Jose Earthquakes might be back at square one with regards to the health of their new Portuguese winger.
Less than 48 hours after Djaló was forced to come off the pitch in the 14th minute of San Jose’s 3-2 loss at Vancouver due to a strained groin, Quakes coach Mark Watson admitted that the 28-year-old’s muscle problems are becoming a worrisome issue as the club finishes up a stretch of three games in eight days.
Djaló is being listed as “questionable” for the Quakes’ home match against Colorado on Wednesday (10:30 pm ET; MLS LIVE), although Watson certainly didn’t sound optimistic following Monday’s training session.
“Obviously, he’s got issues that we need to get resolved,” Watson said. “There’s a little pattern developing in terms of, he recovers from an injury pretty quickly, and then can’t get through the game or can only get through a couple minutes. We’ve got to figure that one out, so we can get him on the field and get him to finish games.”
Making his first MLS start, Djaló pulled up in the 10th minute of the Whitecaps match after making a sprinting burst and dropped to his knees on the turf at BC Place. Vancouver played on and scored their opener roughly 25 seconds later through Kekuta Manneh.
Djaló was eventually replaced by Alan Gordon, with Chris Wondolowski sliding back from a front-running position into the space underneath formerly occupied by Djaló – a major and unplanned tactical shift for the Quakes.
“I didn’t actually see the goal because I was kind of watching Yannick to see if it was an injury that would require a sub,” Watson admitted. “It’s been very frustrating. I think it affected the team when he went off the field. It changed things quickly.
“It makes it really difficult, because he’s obviously someone who is a really talented player and he makes us better when he’s on the field, so you want him on the field. But obviously, if you start him and he can’t go, like it happened on Saturday, you’re down a sub right away, and a little bit of the things you’ve done to prepare for the game have changed as well.”
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This was the second time in three matches that Djaló was undone by a muscle strain. Earlier in the season, he fought a hamstring problem, one which forced him to come off after just 18 minutes as a substitute at Colorado on April 19.
In both instances, Djaló passed all the club’s pregame fitness tests and reported no problems.
“All the stuff that he has done with our medical team prior to the game has indicated that he’ll be fine,” Watson said. “It’s pretty simple. It’s, ‘Can you perform all the functions that you’ll need to perform in the game? Can you twist, turn, jump, sprint fully? Can you sprint five yards, turn and sprint 50 yards?’
“And he’s always come through those before the game. The game speed is higher, so maybe it’s hard to replicate that outside the game. But it’s something we need to resolve, for sure.”
Djaló’s injury woes come at a tough time for San Jose. If healthy, Djaló would be a leading candidate to fill Wondolowski’s shoes if the US international receives an expected call to join the Americans’ World Cup camp after this weekend – a plan that might be up in the air at this point.
In the short term, with Steven Lenhart expected to miss Wednesday’s game and a longshot for inclusion on the bench Saturday against FC Dallas, the Quakes will likely lean on Gordon again for heavy minutes.
In addition to Lenhart’s pending return, there is one other piece of good news on the injury front for San Jose. Highly touted rookie attacker Tommy Thompson, San Jose’s first Homegrown player, is back at training after undergoing arthroscopic surgery on his right knee and looked impressive Monday during the short stint media were allowed to observe.
“The knee’s stable, it’s just a matter of getting him a little fitter and sharper every day,” Watson said. “It was his best day, today. The last time he trained was his best day up until that point. He looked a little sharper today, and that’s all you want at this point, just see little improvements. ... So that’s encouraging.”