If you’re making a quilt, using a patchwork style is fine. If you’re knitting together an MLS defense, it’s not so ideal.
Nonetheless, San Jose Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop will head into Saturday having to recast a back line that suffered another blow last weekend against Colorado, when left back Ramiro Corrales sprained his left knee in a challenge against the Rapids’ Kosuke Kimura.
If center back Bobby Burling – who’s listed as probable after being knocked out of the Colorado game with a bruised toe – can’t go, things become even more severely scrambled.
In that instance, Yallop would likely start a center back who has two weeks’ worth of time at the position this season (Brandon McDonald), another center back who has spent the last month-and-a-half playing right back (Jason Hernandez) and an outside back who just joined the team on Friday (Tim Ward).
The last spot would be filled either by a rookie (Steven Beitashour or Justin Morrow), or by moving his team’s best offensive catalyst, Bobby Convey, to the back line.
[inline_node:304125]And all of this comes with a Kansas City team on a four-match unbeaten streak bearing down on them.
“The worries for any coach, any time you’re going against a team that’s played together for a while, [are that] we’re going to put together guys in a week and not have any games and kind of throw them out there and see what happens,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com.
“But that’s the reason you train hard every day, so you stayed clued in to what the team is doing.”
Adding to the fun is the inability to get much training time for the new group. Ward was absent Tuesday, back at home finalizing his move from Chicago in the wake of his sudden trade from the Fire to the Quakes. Burling sat out as well because his injury, although even if he had participated, the injury-riddled team could only muster enough bodies for seven-on-seven, half-field drills.
“I think a lot of things that started to come together for us in the first part of the season were due to having a lot of the familiar faces, guys playing week in and week out and creating chemistry,” said Hernandez, who will likely inherit Corrales’ captain armband, if only temporarily. “When you bring new guys in, obviously it’s a different kind of chemistry, and you work to know where each other are and see how we can relate on the field.”
If Burling can play effectively, it would make Yallop’s job easier. Then he would only have to worry about how to replace Corrales, who played all but seven minutes of the Quakes’ first 16 matches but is expected to miss at least four weeks.
Ward has played on the left in the past, but is predominantly right-sided and won’t even have the benefit of a full week of training. Morrow is a natural lefty, but he’s clocked only 46 minutes all season.
[inline_node:312191]Convey might be the best answer, in part because it could allow Yallop the ability to get another attacking player on the pitch without losing Convey’s contribution completely, thus bolstering an offense that’s scored five goals in its last seven games.
Convey had arguably the Quakes’ best chance in Colorado with a 91st-minute blast from distance that he took after sliding back to fill Corrales’ role.
“Wherever Bobby is on the field, he’s going to be looking to create and be dynamic,” Hernandez said. “Obviously, we want him as close to the goal as possible, so left wing is our preferred and his natural position.
"But being left back, he can most definitely get up the line and provide good support and good crosses from out there, and probably have a lot of space to deal with things. If that’s where he plays, it could be a huge bonus for us, getting his tireless work rate up and down the line.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes