Even as they practiced under a threatening sky of clouds, the San Jose Earthquakes were anything but gloomy Monday morning at their first training session back home since a convincing 3-0 road victory over Toronto FC. Nearly everyone was in attendance, with a couple notable exceptions, for what is normally a light practice day to start the week. However, with a Reserve League game on Tuesday — kick-off at 11 a.m. on the very same training facility field — against the Portland Timbers reserves, the Monday session was not your typical regeneration session.
For many of the starters from Saturday’s impressive win over TFC, the session was filled with stretching and conditioning drills under the guidance of fitness coach Greg Tella. He had Sam Cronin, Shea Salinas, Steven Lenhart, Steven Beitashour, and Justin Morrow working on the side with resistance bands and other conditioning equipment. They also employed an elliptical machine that was anything like you’d see at the gym. Called the ElliptiGo, the contraption was more like a bicycle than a piece of gym equipment, and it was a site to see the over 6-foot tall Lenhart strolling through the parking lot outside of the training facility. Cronin gave it a shot too, but he just doesn’t have the hair to make for the complete picture as does Lenny.
One starter not working on the side was the tireless Chris Wondolowski. The double goal scorer over the weekend much feel pretty confident in his abilities on offense, because instead of practicing up top during the session’s intrasquad scrimmage, Wondo was lined up a right back for Team Blue. Talk about versatility! And while he had some nice runs out of the back, there is no need for Beitashour to worry about losing his starting assignment as Wondolowski joked after practice that he has no desire to move to the back line. Of course, one shouldn’t doubt whether or not he would play there if asked…
The rest of the line-ups for Monday’s 9 v. 9 scrimmage saw Wondolowski’s Team Blue featuring Cesar Diaz Pizarro, Jacob Hustedt, Anthony Ampaipitakwong, Victor Bernardez, Brad Ring, Rafael Baca, and Josh Suggs. Team Orange, which likely features many of the players that will start Tuesday’s Reserve League match, was comprised of Khari Stephenson, Alan Gordon, Jean-Marc Alexandre, Sam Garza, Sercan Guvenisik, Simon Dawkins, Jason Hernandez, and Ellis McLoughlin. Saturday’s attacking midfielder Tressor Moreno did double duty, sporting a yellow pinny and playing for both sides.
Both sides played attacking soccer on the short field, and all three goalkeepers, who rotated in during each session, were kept busy. As intensive as a right back as he is t forward, Wondolowski was the most vocal player on the field, letting teammates know what and what not to do. Diaz Pizarro had some good finishes for the Blues, while Dawkins was excellent for the Oranges. Reminiscent of the play he put over on the Toronto defense late in Saturday’s victory that nearly sprung Wondolowski for a hat-trick, the Tottenham loanee was at his best with the ball at his feet even in the tight quarters throughout Monday’s scrimmage. Garza also looked good, and is slowly showing the Earthquakes coaching staff that he is ready to make the matchday 18. Lastly, Gordon was still getting suited to the game, but did show that his level of fitness is ready for a potential return to the line-up.
The bigger news around training was the absence of Honduran winger Marvin Chavez. In a play that was not captured on the television broadcast from Saturday’s match at Toronto was a seemingly innocuous collision that Chavez suffered with an opponent off the ball. The speedy winger was removed from the game with concussion-like symptoms, and on Monday was being evaluated using the ImPACT Test. Head coach Frank Yallop shared after practice of Chavez that “he should be fine,” and coach’s prescient statement turned out to be true when testing results came back negative. As a precaution, Chavez was held out of practice pending the results and was included on this week’s official injury report as “questionable” with a concussion, and will only participate in future training sessions this week as required. His availability for the weekend match at Seattle will be determined later in the week.
With the Earthquakes already at their roster limit of 30 signed players, the team continues to train without any guest or trialist players, but that might change for Tuesday’s Reserve League match, as San Jose still does not have a true back-up at right back. True, Wondolowski could admirably fill the role if asked, but the more likely candidate is rookie Sam Garza. More thought of as a forward or attacking winger, Garza would still have the freedom to go byline to byline if asked to play as a defender, and might find that getting to use the entire touchline might open up possibilities to join the attack. Whether or not he is tasked with that role against the Timbers, the Reserve League tilt provides coaches and fans a great chance to see the Generation Adidas product test his abilities against MLS competition.
Last note on training this week: with the next match in Seattle on Saturday, the Earthquakes are expected to train in San Jose through the end of the week before taking a Friday afternoon flight to the Emerald City. And if Chavez is given clearance to play, the Earthquakes will have their full complement of players to choose from to face the red-hot Sounders. Game time Sunday is 7 p.m.; check your local TV listings for details on where to watch San Jose take on their first Western Conference foe of the MLS season.