San Jose Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear has been a coach a long time in MLS, and in those years, he's seen just about everything. But when asked if he has ever witnessed such a crisis of roster depth as he faces right now, given the mounting injuries his Quakes have experienced at center back, his typical wry smile faded.
"Not really, no," said Kinnear, himself propped up on crutches following a broken foot he suffered earlier this month. "Usually you see this kind of spread out, where it's one guy here and one guy there."
San Jose is coming off a dramatic 1-1 draw against their in-state rivals the LA Galaxy, but it came at a cost, as in just the fifth minute of the game, Victor Bernardez had to come off the field with a lower right leg injury. Bernardez, to that point, had been the only field player on the Earthquakes to play every minute of every game this season. Now, only goalkeeper David Bingham can claim perfect attendance in 2016.
On Wedensday, Kinnear confirmed what many had feared: the injury suffered by Bernardez was more than a knock and the big center back would need more time to recover. The timeline for his return to the field will extend at least through Friday night's clash at the Chicago Fire, with his availability in question for next week against FC Dallas at Avaya Stadium.
"Victor is not going to play on Friday," said Kinnear. He is not going to travel, so we brought Matheus Silva back from Arizona to make up for the loss of another defender."
Silva, who is on loan with Arizona United SC of the USL -- coached by former Earthquakes manager Frank Yallop -- has traveled back and forth from the desert state when called on to add to the Quakes roster depth. Silva started in loan in early May, and he has played three games for Arizona. On Friday, he's expected to be the third option at center back against the Fire.
Clarence Goodson, who is out indefinitely with back spasms, and Andres Imperiale, still on the mend from a leg injury, are unavailable this week; the addition of Bernardez puts the top three center backs on the Earthquakes roster on the shelf. San Jose, as they did to end the game against LA, will have to make do with Marvell Wynne and Fatai Alashe in the heart of the defensive line at Chicago.
"Our lineup will look similar to the way it was on Saturday after Victor's substitution," said Kinnear. "Marvell is not really a center back, he's our fourth option, Fatai's our fifth option, and now they're our one and two. It show you the injury problem we have at the center back position."
But Kinnear is not ready to throw a pity party, at least not yet. Even with all the shuffling along the defensive back four this season, the Earthquakes have conceded only 19 goals in 16 games -- the third least in the Western Conference. And the Quakes opponent on Friday, the Fire, has scored only 14 goals all season, second worst to the surprisingly under-performing Seattle Sounders in all of MLS.
Still, Kinnear remains sanguine about the situation, knowing that the depth built into the roster this season was done so to handle these very situations. And at Chicago, once the opening whistle blows, he may not have his first-choice center backs on the field, but he will have two players he trusts to get the job done.
"That's just the way it is," said Kinnear.
Friday's match kicks off at 5:30 p.m. Pacific Time from Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, and it will be televised on Unimas. The Quakes return to San Jose next Friday to host FC Dallas at Avaya Stadium.
Projected San Jose Earthquakes Starting XI vs. Chicago Fire