For an offense that’s been strictly middle-of-the-MLS-pack this season in terms of goal production, San Jose Earthquakes attackers sure are popular this weekend with their respective national teams.
With Cornell Glen (Trinidad and Tobago) and Ryan Johnson (Jamaica) having been tapped to play for their countries, the Quakes would seem to have a paucity of firepower (though Arturo Alvarez, who was called by El Salvador, will remain with the Quakes after all). And, if not for a couple of recoveries months in the making, that probably would be true.
Instead of being a limiting factor, the duo’s absence from the squad opens the door for both Eduardo and Scott Sealy to make an impact against D.C. United on Saturday and build their own case for why they should claim a spot on a Quakes front line that’s been a revolving door for much of the season.
“Anytime you’ve got guys going to the national team,” Sealy said, “there’s always opportunity for someone else.”
Eduardo and Sealy started up top for San Jose against Columbus last weekend. Though the game ended in a scoreless draw, both players made it through unscathed physically.
Eduardo, making his first start since coming over from Switzerland in February, played 69 minutes before giving way to fresher legs, and Sealy went the full 90 minutes in his third start of the season since rejoining the Quakes in April.
“I’m happy to play, but I’m also happy that I came off the field Saturday after the game and felt completely fine,” Eduardo said through a translator. “I wasn’t sore or injured in playing 70 minutes. I’m really happy that I’m able to contribute to the team, which I wasn’t able to do before.”
Much was expected from Eduardo, who has been hampered by a litany of muscle problems. In fact, his absence was one catalyst for the team reaching out to Sealy, who had left the club in 2009 to play in Israel. But Sealy quickly picked up a thigh problem that was only fully resolved last month.
Even with both players unable to contribute, no other forward – save 12-goal scorer Chris Wondolowski – established himself. That’s why Yallop’s decision for a lineup Saturday has some ramifications beyond just the 90 minutes at RFK Stadium. Whoever plays would have a chance to move up in San Jose’s pecking order.
[inline_node:319934]Given that backdrop, does Yallop pair Eduardo with countryman Geovanni, the Quakes’ first Designated Player, in search of a samba beat?
Or does he put Sealy, who provided some critical punch in San Jose’s 2008 second-half surge, at the point of attack with Geovanni floating underneath? Maybe he starts both forwards and slides Geovanni back to an attacking central midfield role?
That last one may not be an option, however, as the Quakes coach seems reluctant to move Geovanni, who took the Columbus game off rather than making a third start in eight days, from the forward line.
That may be because Yallop wants the DP to constantly be searching for the ball and orchestrating San Jose’s attack – two things which he can’t do if he were to have the more concrete defensive responsibilities.
There certainly would be a comfort level generated by teaming Geovanni, who arrived in August, and Eduardo, whose injuries essentially made him a midseason acquisition as well. Since neither player has had more than a few weeks to learn teammates’ tendencies, their familiarity is a key – both in terms of speaking Portuguese, but also in their shared national style of play.
“The major thing is the language,” Eduardo said. “We can talk to each other very well, we understand each other. We can see where we want to go and how we want to pass the ball. It makes it easier for us to understand our movements on the field.”
Said Geovanni: “In practice, we’re on the same team a lot. I understand him, he understands me. We have a good feeling on the field … so it’d be great to play together.”
Yallop is just happy to have choices still left at his disposal with three potential starters gone.
“I’m very happy for [Eduardo and Sealy] that they’ve not lost focus,” Yallop said. “And we’ve never given up on them, either. They needed to know that, and I kept talking to both guys, through the year, saying, ‘Keep going and get healthy.’ And here they are.
“It gives me selection problems, but that’s OK. That’s my job.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes.