When the San Jose Earthquakes put five potential playoff partners for Geovanni in their starting lineup on Wednesday, it was a move originally intended to help whittle down the options for head coach Frank Yallop.
Instead, it might have made his job exponentially tougher.
Excepting Cornell Glen, who went down early with a hamstring injury, four of the Quakes’ five primary attackers turned in solid performances during San Jose’s 3-0 victory against Chivas USA – and that’s not including the spectacular, off-the-bench hat trick by Chris Wondolowski.
Ryan Johnson, Eduardo, Scott Sealy and Arturo Alvarez all gave Yallop something to consider as he ponders the appropriate lineup for Oct. 30, when the Quakes will host their first postseason match in five years.
“I thought some guys tonight really gave me some difficult decisions to come for next Saturday,” Yallop said. “And that’s what I wanted. I wanted the reaction from the group that played tonight to say, ‘I want to play.’ And I tell you what, a few of them said that. So that’s good for me. I’m looking forward to next week’s practice.”
Eduardo and Johnson were each credited with assisting a Wondolowski goal – Eduardo for sliding a short cross to Wondolowski at the top of the penalty area in the 59th minute, Johnson for flinging in a cross that found Wondolowski alone near the back post in the 72nd.
Both men easily could have had added to those totals. Eduardo, playing at forward alongside Glen, set up Wondolowski in the closing minutes of the first half for what was arguably his easiest chance of the night, but the MVP candidate yanked it wide. Johnson, stationed on the left wing, fired another tight cross in the 58th minute that found Alvarez open at 10 yards, but the shot took a ricochet off Wondolowski and Goats ‘keeper Kevin Guppy was able to make the save.
[inline_node:318521]Johnson, who increased his career-high assist total to seven, might have played the best all-around game of the quartet, but his most productive work on the season has come at left wing – a spot that will undoubtedly be filled by Bobby Convey once the playoffs come. With only one goal compared to last year’s 11, Johnson has not been the kind of finisher the Quakes need at forward.
“I’m trying to prove my point to the coaches, that I want to be out there,” Johnson told MLSsoccer.com. “Everybody’s trying to do the same thing. It’s a competitive job, and we all want to be out there. It shows we have a strong bench and wherever they put me, I’m going to give my best effort.”
Eduardo is the most talented of the four, but as Yallop pointed out, it was only his second start of an injury-plagued season and first time going the full 90 minutes.
“I’m the first to get down on him a little bit, because of how good he is and he’s not quite showed it for us,” Yallop said. “But I thought second half he had a really good half and there’s much more to come from him. It’s tough because it’s a little late for us in this season, but hopefully we can continue to have Eddie for next year and he can grow into the player we know he can be.”
For his part, Alvarez showed good speed on the right wing and delivered a perfect ball with his seldom-used right foot in the ninth minute that found a wide-open Glen – who proceeded to head it off the crossbar. It was a second good performance in as many matches for Alvarez, who could be an attractive option at right midfield because that would free Wondolowski to play up front with Geovanni.
Then there was Sealy, who was stopped by Guppy on his best strike of the evening, a 44th-minute shot breaking inside the area set up by a deft look from Eduardo. Yallop told MLSsoccer.com earlier this week that Sealy was “unlucky” not to be in the lineup already now that he has fully recovered from a thigh problem that hampered him for much of the first half of the season.
“To be honest, I thought one of our best layers tonight was Scott Sealy in an attacking midfield role,” Yallop said. “He has a chance of maybe playing [in the playoffs]. We’ll see. I thought he did very well on both sides of the ball and played a good full 90 minutes and was outstanding.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes
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