SANTA CLARA -- Roster challenges continue to haunt the Earthquakes, who limped east this week hoping to build momentum off a thrilling comeback victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy last weekend.
San Jose (5-7-6) has to regroup without at least six marquee players as it faces Chicago on Wednesday night and New England on Saturday. It has been this way much of a disjointed season that has left the Earthquakes in eighth place in the nine-team Western Division.
The culprit this time is the Gold Cup, a monthlong competition featuring 12 teams from North America, Central America and the Caribbean. Star striker Chris Wondolowski and new center back Clarence Goodson have joined the U.S. team, outside midfielder Marvin
They could miss the Quakes' four MLS games in July just as the club is scrapping to remain competitive in the loaded West.
Also, star defender Victor Bernardez is ineligible for the Chicago game because he passed the yellow-card limit when receiving his first caution against Los Angeles. However, San Jose officials have contested the second yellow card that led to the Honduran's ejection. If upheld, Bernardez can't play at New England, either.
After reviewing video, interim coach Mark Watson said Bernardez didn't make contact with Juninho on the sliding tackle that led to the ejection in the 77th minute. Replays appear to show the defender sliding past his opponent.
"There was a lot of embellishment after the fact," Watson said at Santa Clara University before departing on the weeklong trip.
The Earthquakes won't have target man Steven Lenhart, who suffered a gash to the head against the Galaxy.
The biggest question mark, however, is the back line because veteran Jason Hernandez is the only true center back available. Whomever Watson chooses to start Wednesday had only one training session together before facing the Fire.
"It's times like this when you need everyone," the coach said.
Goalkeeper Jon Busch, who had a season-high eight saves against Los Angeles, is hopeful the latest victory provides the confidence the Quakes have lacked. A three-member back line came up big after Bernardez's departure.
"It was a little bit of everything to get the three points," Busch said.
It's going to take a lot of everything this month for the Earthquakes to remain in the playoff race. San Jose (1-6-2 on the road) has not performed well away from Buck Shaw Stadium, where it last played May 18.
Alan Gordon, who scored his first two goals of the season after entering Saturday's game in the 66th minute, emphasized the importance of finding ways to get points until help arrives in August.
The first step was defeating the Galaxy -- the Quakes scored twice in stoppage time despite playing a man down.
"We all needed it," said Gordon, who struggled after returning from two offseason surgeries and then missing three games because of a suspension.
"We haven't had a moment like that in awhile."
Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.
Earthquakes (5-7-6) at Chicago (5-7-3), 5:30 p.m. CSN Plus