With the CONCACAF Gold Cup set to begin this week, numerous MLS teams are feeling the pain of international call-ups. But the San Jose Earthquakes find themselves in the enviable position of getting players back instead of losing them, with midfielder Simon Elliott and forward Cornell Glen among those returning to the fold.
Elliott returned last week from his exertions with New Zealand at the FIFA Confederations Cup. And while the Kiwis suffered defeats to Spain and South Africa, they were able to salvage a 0-0 draw in their group finale against Iraq.
"By the end of the tournament we were playing pretty well," said Elliott. "We don't get together as much as we'd like, for various reasons, so it takes a while for people to get to know each other and gel.
"It's great when we get to play opposition of that caliber. We don't get to do it a lot, and we're hopeful it will stand us in good stead come the World Cup qualifiers."
While Elliott was racking up the frequent flyer miles, Glen's World Cup qualifying stint with the Trinidad and Tobago national team turned into an odyssey of a different sort.
The Quakes striker was supposed to return to San Jose during the week of June 15, but he needed to get his application for a P-1 visa approved first. The petition was approved in the U.S., but when Glen showed up for his appointment, the staff at the embassy couldn't find his paperwork, forcing to reschedule another appointment.
Glen missed the team's June 20 game against Los Angeles as a result, and while he tried to stay sharp by training with former club San Juan Jabloteh, it didn't make the delay any easier to take.
"I was getting really frustrated with the visa," said Glen. "I'm just glad we finally got it sorted out and can just concentrate on playing soccer."
Of course, now the tricky task of reintegrating themselves into the team begins, a challenge made more difficult by the fact that the Quakes have taken seven points from their last four matches. San Jose manager Frank Yallop is the kind of coach who is loath to tweak a winning lineup, even if that means leaving highly regarded players on the bench.
But both players accept the possibility that playing for one's country leaves open the chance of losing their spot in the starting lineup. And both are confident that they'll be able to contribute further down the line.
"I'm old enough and ugly enough to know how it works these days," said Elliott. "It's just a case of getting back here and working hard and trying to get back into the team and help them win."
Added Glen: "The competition for spots is sometimes a good thing, because you come back and you work extra hard. That can sometimes help with your fitness and sharpness. But I'm not worried. It's a team sport, and it's up to the coach to decide if I should go out and play. I'm comfortable with that."
The Quakes also caught a break with T&T failing to qualify for the Gold Cup, meaning Glen should be with the team until World Cup qualifying resumes in August. Glen admitted he had some mixed emotions given T&T's stumbles in the Caribbean Cup, but he's also pleased to be staying put for a while.
For Yallop, there was more good news beyond the return of Elliott and Glen. Injury victims Jason Hernandez and Arturo Alvarez have both returned to training and looked sharp, although the continued thigh pain experienced by winger Darren Huckerby has seen him sit out training for the last week. Still, Yallop is pleased to have more options available ahead of Friday's game at Real Salt Lake.
"The only guys were missing are Huckerby and Ryan Cochrane, but it's good to be getting everyone else back. Cornell has looked especially good, and he'll be available for selection on Friday."
Video interview: Click Here.