Lack of production from Designated Players hurting struggling Earthquakes

SAN JOSE, Calif. – By the time the San Jose Earthquakes were finished with their scoreless draw against New York City FC last Friday, the club’s three Designated Players were absent from the Avaya Stadium pitch.

Argentinean midfielder Matías Pérez García, who is still carried on San Jose’s books, was with Orlando City, getting to know his new teammates after being traded days earlier for the Lions’ Darwin Cerén.

Swiss forward Innocent, brought in to much fanfare before the 2015 season, failed to make the game-day 18 in his continued battles to return from a litany of ailments.

Finally, English winger Simon Dawkins was forced to depart at halftime after banging his injured left wrist.

In all, the Quakes have gotten just two goals and three assists from their trio of DPs in 2016, a level of production that has not helped their hopes for making it back into the MLS Cup playoffs field for the first time in four seasons.

If San Jose are to get any more help from their DPs, it appears it will have to come from Dawkins, whose up-and-down ride in returning to MLS hit another pothole with the discovery that his wrist – originally thought to be sprained – turned out to be broken.

“This is quite annoying to get this break in my wrist at the moment,” said Dawkins, who has been training this week with a cast extending two-thirds of the way up his forearm and still hopes to be available to face Vancouver on Friday (11 pm ET; UniMás in US | TSN in Canada). “But I’m doing the best I can to make it on the field and give my best for the team.”

The 28-year-old Dawkins has made 19 appearances, all but one starts, in league play for the Quakes, but he’s been fighting various “niggles,” as he called them, throughout the year, including issues in his groin, knee and back. The problems have not cost him whole months in one fell swoop, but instead chipped away at his maximum level of effectiveness.

“Going into the Houston game [on July 31], I felt my groin injury was getting better,” Dawkins told this week. “I felt a lot better and then this had to go and happen. It’s kind of frustrating. . . . I think in recent weeks, my performances have been getting better. I just want to try to continue and make a difference for this team.”

Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear said he doesn’t want to “risk playing anybody who’s not 100 percent,” but acknowledged earlier this month that Dawkins and Alberto Quintero are his first-choice wingers. And any coach is dependent on the player’s assessment of their own fitness.

Teammates can commiserate with Dawkins’ plight.

“Injuries suck,” Quakes forward Quincy Amarikwa said. “I know it frustrates fans, but it frustrates players even more, because you’re the one that has to deal with it and go through it. It’s the constant struggle between wanting to play and contribute – but if you show the heart and you don’t get the result you desire, then [people] are saying, ‘Well, if you’re injured, why are you playing?’”

With Perez Garcia gone, he won’t be making any further contributions to the Quakes’ cause. And Innocent, who has played just 12 minutes since April, doesn’t seem to be any closer to cracking Kinnear’s rotation, especially with the addition Wednesday of former La Liga striker Henok Goitom.

“It’s his first time being [significantly] injured,” Kinnear said of Innocent’s meniscus injury, which ended his 2015 campaign. “It just took him a long time to get back on the field.”

It hasn’t helped that Innocent has seemed to be hit with a number of other aches and pains that have limited his availability and allowed others to pass him by on the Quakes’ lineup card.

“There are two forwards and wide guys in front of him,” Kinnear said. “You can’t push a guy up [the depth chart] who’s not out here.”