As the Earthquakes prepare for a span of three games in week -- all three on the road -- good news has emerged on the injury front. Star forward Chris Wondolowski has recovered from the calf injury that has slowed him down the past few weeks, and veteran defender Jordan Stewart is in line to get his first minutes of the 2015 season.
For head coach Dominic Kinnear, the availability of two of his most important players is a boon going into a stretch of away games that he has not seen the likes of in all his years coaching in MLS -- Real Salt Lake on Friday, the Houston Dynamo on Tuesday, and the Colorado Rapids the following Friday.
"This week, there is going to be a lot of interchanging positions," said Kinnear following the team's training session on Wednesday, its last in San Jose until the road trip is completed. "With three games in a week, it is going to be tough. So everyone is going to get a chance to play."
The Quakes will certainly welcome back Stewart, a mainstay at left back last season, as the team will still be without Shaun Francis for the foreseeable future. Cordell Cato is also expected to play at that position as Stewart is not at full fitness and will need to have his playing minutes managed in the short term.
Because its game against the Montreal Impact was postponed last weekend so that the Canadian club could focus on the CONCACAF Champions League final -- the Impact lost on aggregate to Mexican giants Club America, failing to become the first MLS team to win the continental championship -- San Jose has had time to get players healthy and prepare for the string of three straight Western Conference opponents. And while Kinnear admitted it "kinda stunk" that the Quakes had to take a weekend off, he was still able to see the positives that the impromptu bye-week provided.
"Getting Wondo healthy. Jordan gets some more training sessions. Tommy [Thompson] would have missed the game because he was with the national team, so we get him back," said Kinnear. "Those are some of the positives.
"On the other side of it, you don't like taking weekends off. I rather we could keep going."
In addition to the absence of Francis, the Quakes will be without the services of Steven Lenhart, Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi, and Mark Sherrod for the road trip. Sherrod has been participating in training, but Kinnear said he was not quite ready to be activated from the disabled list.
At 3-4-0 and seventh place in the West -- tied with Friday's opponent Real Salt Lake with 9 points from seven games -- the Earthquakes will hope that they don't suffer a letdown in the opening stanza of their first match in two weeks. A sluggish start against New York Red Bulls contributed to the team's 2-0 loss in Harrison, and the Quakes will want to kick things off at Rio Tinto Stadium in a much better manner.
"You always strive for perfection in everything you do, not just soccer," said Kinnear. "If you play well, and you set the bar high in one game, that's what you are shooting for the next game. Maybe even a bit higher, but you don't want to drop below that.
"When we step on the field against Salt Lake, it is important for us that we have a lot of information about them, but that we look at ourselves and realize what happened in the last game against New York doesn't happen again."
Kick off against RSL is scheduled for 7:00 p.m. Pacific time, and the match can be watched live on the Univision Deportes Network.