Since I'm already on a daily 6 hour diet of soccer since the World Cup began, what do I do with my precious little spare time? Why, I make a visit to the Nutrilite Training Facility to take in some San Jose Earthquakes training, of course. Taking advantage of the time off before MLS resumes play, the Quakes are in the midst of a "second pre-season" ahead of their match at Real Salt Lake next Friday.
First, the big news surrounding the club is the imminent arrival of Sam Cronin from Toronto FC. In a story first reported in the Toronto Sun, the out-of-favor midfielder has been shopped to the Quakes as head coach Preki looks to unload players that do not fit into his system with the Reds. For San Jose, Cronin offers a replacement for the chronically injured Andre Luiz in the center of the midfield. The 23-year old former #2 pick in the 2009 MLS Super Draft would provide more depth at a position that has suddenly become an issue for the team.
After training on Wednesday, Quakes coach Frank Yallop did not want to comment on the Cronin situation, nor did any spokespersons with the team. However, the Mercury News has reported that Cronin will come to San Jose in exchange for allocation money. The next question becomes, which player on the current roster will he replace?
The three options seem clear -- trade away a current player, cut a current player, or move a player to the injured reserve list. Given the state of Andre Luiz and his gimpy knee, the third option may turn out to be the answer. Coach Yallop indicated that he Quakes training staff in conjunction with medical specialists are evaluating whether to rest the injured Brazilian or schedule him for surgery. If he goes under the knife, it is likely that his season would be over, and the Quakes could move him to the IR and free up a roster spot for Cronin.
Back to the action on the practice field, the rest of the team was in action Wednesday, with the exception of Scott Sealy. Sealy was resting a slight injury he picked up last week, and was left to do a light workout on the sidelines.
The most promising sight of the afternoon was a healthy looking Eduardo participating in fitness drills. Moving without impediment, the Brazilian forward looks set to join his teammates in scrimmages, according to coach Yallop. However, he also indicated that Eduardo was a long-shot to see the field against RSL, as he still needs to reach match-fit levels.
Meanwhile, the Quakes still held a spirited 11 v. 11 scrimmage over the later half of practice, with a couple young trialists filling out the playing roster. No word on their identities, since neither is expected to get any farther than the evaluation stage at this point. Still, it is good to see these young players get a chance to show their skills in front of the Quakes coaching staff. Remember back to last season, when Steven Beitashour spent time training with the club, and later was drafted and made the 2010 opening day roster.
Coming off a lackluster effort against Chivas USA last Saturday, and still over a week away from their next match, the Earthquakes will ramp up the practice intensity starting next Monday. Coach Yallop said that he would not establish his starting XI for the RSL match until then, and that everyone still has a chance to be selected. The uncertainties at this point seem to be at the center of midfield and at forward. Andre Luiz, regardless of what the decision is on treatment for his knee, will not be available for the trip to Utah, so coach Yallop will need to find a combination that can play with Brandon McDonald. With Joey Gjertsen back to full health, Arturo Alvarez will challenge Ryan Johnson and Chris Wondolowski for the forward spots. The defense looks set with Leitch, Hernandez, Opara, and Corrales lining up in front of Joe Cannon. We'll know early next week.
The Earthquakes have a couple practice games scheduled for the rest of the week, the first today and another on Friday, giving everyone a chance to sharpen their form ahead of next week. Coach Yallop said he likes to have these midweek friendlies so that his players don't get frustrated with each other, and can face off against other opposition.