There’s one thing San Jose Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop is certain of heading into his match Sunday in Houston: Jason Hernandez will be in the lineup.
Everything else – including where Hernandez will play – is still up for debate.
In other words, it’s just a typical week in Quakeland, where injuries and suspensions conspire to shake things up from match to match to match.
“I’m glad to be training with a goal in mind of playing on the weekend,” said Hernandez, who received a two-game suspension after being red-carded during the Quakes’ 1-0 win against Kansas City on Aug. 14. “It’s been the kind of season with injuries and guys in and out, I’m asked to slide wherever they need me, and I’m more than up to the task. Wherever coach needs me, that’s where I’ll be.”
This week, San Jose are learning to make do without Bobby Convey, the team’s leading assist-generator, who had been filling in for injured left back Ramiro Corrales before drawing a one-game suspension for an accumulation of yellow cards. Tim Ward will likely be flipped from right back to left, rather than depending on untested rookie Justin Morrow in Convey’s place.
Hernandez could replace Ward on the right, although he prefers to play in the middle. Rookie Steven Beitashour, who has four starts at right back this season, is available out wide, and veteran Chris Leitch, on the mend from a strained hip, could be back as well.
If Hernandez gets used in the middle, it will most likely mean that Brandon McDonald will replace Sam Cronin as a holding midfielder – or head to the bench after 19 consecutive starts.
Whatever the case, Yallop will be putting together his fourth different starting back line in five matches.
“It’s frustrating when you get to see some of the other squads and guys get to really build chemistry, with the same faces in the lineup, week in and week out,” Hernandez said. “And it shows; in good defenses, rarely are there many faces changing week in and week out.
“But we’ve been a resilient club from the first game of the season. And I think that’s not going to change. We’re going to do what we have to do to get results.”
Hernandez has been tasked with keeping himself sharp during his enforced vacation, which stemmed from an off-the-ball foul on Wizards forward Teal Bunbury, who had been taking liberties against other Quakes, in Hernandez’s view.
“It’s difficult, but I think at this point of the season, you’re at a point where your body doesn’t mind a little rest,” Hernandez said. “But it’s really a testament to each individual and how much work they want to put in, and I think we have a lot of guys around here who, even if they’re not in the starting lineup, they work pretty hard.
“So I was able to jump in and try to keep my fitness up and not cut any corners, because I knew two games would come and go really fast, and I’d be asked to perform again. I’m ready.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes.