As the MLS preseason officially kicks off, the San Jose Earthquakes official roster is maxed out. 28 players currently call themselves Quakes, with goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell, selected in the 2016 MLS SuperDraft, the newest member of the squad.
The roster features four players currently carrying the Designated Player tag -- a number that is one more than league rules allow -- though the Quakes are not expected to part ways with any one of them. Instead, the club plans to use Targeted Allocation Money to convert one of those DP's salary below the threshold amount. Yes, one of Chris Wondolowski, Matias Perez Garcia, Innocent, and Simon Dawkins will no longer wear the DP badge when the Earthquakes open the regular season on March 9.
Is the wiggle room to make additions to the 28 man roster? Only if the Quakes find a way to remove a player from the list. Trades, releases, long-term loans, retirements -- all are possible mechanisms that could get the team below the maximum and provide the flexibility that would be needed to sign additional players. So who are the questions marks on the current roster?
Steven Lenhart, injured all of 2015 and only a part-time player the season before, is a player that sticks out immediately. Earlier this month, general manager John Doyle indicated that the team would have Lenhart come in at the start of preseason to gauge his fitness and arrive on a decision regarding his future. Head coach Dominic Kinnear told Center Line Soccer that he would be "very surprised to see him play for the Earthquakes in 2016."
What is not clear is whether Lenhart will continue with his rehabilitation or choose to retire. If he does remain with the Quakes, the club will be responsible for his salary, but they can replace him on the roster with another signing, salary budget permitting. Retirement would serve to sever ties to both the roster and the salary budget.
Leandro Barrera, an off-season pick-up a year ago via defunct Chivas USA, made only 6 appearances in 2015, and according to Kinnear, "expressed a desire to get more playing time" in 2016. The 24 year old Argentinean midfielder is unlikely to return to San Jose this season, though how his exit from the Earthquakes will be executed is still to be determined.
No others on the roster appear as candidates for attrition, so the Earthquakes might only have room to add two players in the coming weeks. In that list of hopefuls are the team's three MLS SuperDraft selections not already under contract with the league: midfielder Patrick Rodan, defender Kip Colvey, and midfielder Tyler Thompson. As yet to be identified preseason camp invitees are also likely to throw their hats into the ring.
On the injury front, the Earthquakes announced on Friday that midfielder Fatai Alashe had undergone successful hernia surgery and would likely miss 4-6 weeks during his recovery. That would make his return to the team line up with the season opener in March, so his actual return to the lineup could be weeks later. Hernia surgeries tend to be fairly routine, but it can still take months to regain full fitness following the procedure.
Kinnear, also mentioned that Innocent and defender Jordan Stewart would not take to the field to start the preseason. Both are still rehabilitating from season-ending injuries in 2015, and it appears the club wants to take precautions in bringing both back into the fold. Kinnear indicated that he was hopeful both players could return to on-field action by mid-February.