Earthquakes welcome back returning players vs. Real Salt Lake

The San Jose Earthquakes, hoping to make a playoff push, will see their depleted roster move closer to full strength when they play host to improving Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif.

San Jose (5-6-5) is tied for sixth in Major League Soccer’s Western Conference with 20 points, four out of second place and seven back of first-place Sporting Kansas City. Real Salt Lake (5-10-2) is tied for ninth in the Western Conference with 17 points.

Florian Jungwirth is still sidelined with an ankle injury and Fatai Alashe and Shaun Francis remain questionable. But San Jose forward Marco Urena and midfielder Darwin Ceren are eligible to return from suspensions. Kip Colvey won’t be available against Real Salt Lake, but he should be back next week after New Zealand was eliminated from the Confederations Cup.

San Jose also has more help on the way. The Earthquakes announced Thursday that they had signed Georgia national team midfielder Valeri “Vako” Qazaishvili as a designated player.

Qazaishvili, 24, spent six years with the SBV Vitesse of the Dutch Eredivisie, the top league in the Netherlands, where he accumulated 25 goals and 10 assists in 104 league games. Qazaishvili scored in Georgia’s most recent World Cup qualifying match on June 11.

“We were looking for a player — a younger offensive player — that really excites fans and has the possibility to stay with us for a long period of time. That’s what we found with Vako,” Earthquakes general manager Jesse Fioranelli said. “We wanted a player that knows how to take on a defender one-on-one, that sees the goal, and that also wants to bring a spark to our game.”

Real Salt Lake has won three of its last six matches, including a 1-0 victory over Minnesota United last weekend. Yura Movsisyan scored in the 85th minute to give Real Salt Lake the victory. Real Salt Lake is still mired in a five-game road losing streak, but coach Mike Petke believes his team has a chance to change its fortunes against the Earthquakes.

“Life’s about opportunities,” Petke told the Salt Lake Tribune. “We find ourselves three points out of the playoffs right now. That’s amazing. And we’re playing a team that’s three points ahead of us in playoff position, so it’s a six-point game.

“The opportunities are there looking at us in the face. You have to capitalize on them.”