The San Jose Earthquakes’ revolving door at right midfield may finally be stopping. As the Quakes make their first visit to PPL Park and face the Union on Saturday, coach Frank Yallop finally has his first choice back.
After being out of action more than a month with a strained thigh, Gjertsen practiced all week and is ready to play. His combination of high workrate, attacking skill set and attention to defensive detail is something that no one else on the Quakes’ roster has been able to replicate.
“We missed him,” Yallop said. “It’s no disrespect to anyone else we’ve had play out there, but we’ve missed Joey Gjertsen. We’ve not played our good soccer that we’re used to playing.”
In their last four matches, the Quakes have started Arturo Alvarez, Steven Beitashour and even moved scoring leader Chris Wondolowski to the right wing in an attempt to replace the efforts of MLS newcomer Joey Gjertsen.
For a while there, the midfielder’s thigh injury seemed like it would take a long time to heal. Gjertsen, who stepped into the lineup for the Quakes’ second match and started the next seven games after that, originally tried to play through the tightness in his quad, but ended up exacerbating the situation.
The World Cup break, followed by a couple more weeks of rest, has allowed Gjertsen to recuperate and be ready to step on the pitch for the first time since May 29.
“There’s movements that still effect [the thigh], but I’ve been practicing 100 percent and haven’t noticed [the injury], so I think I’ve beat it,” Gjertsen said. “Whether they use me or not, I don’t know. But I’m ready to play.”
Although Gjertsen did work with San Jose’s first team in training this week, he knows that he’s not yet ready for 90 minutes of action [an hour is more realistic] which might prompt Yallop to bring him on as a substitute.
In his first MLS season -- the winger's first since coming over from the Montreal Impact --, Gjertsen has been fairly soft-spoken this season, but he knows that won’t work on Saturday. He’s hoping that open lines of communication with the Quakes’ right back [most likely Jason Hernandez] will allow him to refrain from dipping into the defensive third when it isn’t necessary.
“If I’m used on the right and Jason’s behind me, talking a lot can definitely save energy,” Gjertsen said. “So I think communication will be more a part of [the game] than it usually is.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, and followed on Twitter at @sjquakes.