SAN JOSE -- The injury-depleted Earthquakes got the help they needed when announcing the signing of Honduran forward Walter Martinez, a World Cup veteran who might play Saturday against the Columbus Crew in the team's first away game of the Major League Soccer season.

San Jose announced the signing on the eve of its game in Ohio, also revealing forward Mike Fucito is out because of a gash on his left foot.

Coach Frank Yallop probably will turn to second-year striker Sam Garza to start but said he expects Martinez to play at least 20 minutes.

"The big thing he came in and looked the part, he was fit," Yallop said of the newest player. "We are very light up front so it was a big thing we needed to add a forward."

Fucito was acquired in the offseason to back up a solid group of forwards starting with league MVP Chris Wondolowski. But target men Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart have not returned from offseason surgeries and Marcus Tracy, another promising striker dealing with injuries, has yet to play since arriving in September.

With Fucito out after cutting his foot in last weekend's game against the New York Red Bulls the Quakes were down to rookie Adam Jahn and Garza to team with Wondolowski.

The Earthquakes only learned of Martinez's availability in the past two weeks through Hondurans Victor Bernardez and Marvin Chavez, another attacking player recovering from an injury.

Martinez, 30, had been playing in China the previous three seasons.

The team jumped when offered the chance after Martinez tried out with D.C. United but didn't stick.

"Once we get him up to our speed he's going to help us out," said Yallop, adding he hopes Martinez is more than a stopgap measure.

"He's played wide, he's played up front, and he's played second forward. He's versatile. I love that word. It usually means they can be effective in a bunch of positions. I think that is Walter."

Martinez has 12 goals and more than 40 appearances for Honduras since 2002. He played in each of his country's three games at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

Martinez also holds a U.S. permanent residency card, meaning he doesn't take a coveted international spot on the Quakes roster.

While San Jose brings a patchwork lineup to Ohio the Crew appears in good shape for its home opener. Coach Robert Warzycha said Friday he won't know until just before the game if midfielder Eddie Gaven will be ready because of a sprained ankle.

Contact Elliott Almond at 408-920-5865. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/elliottalmond.

ONLINE EXTRAS
Rookie Adam Jahn picked soccer over swimming, mainly because of the attire.
He also plans to wear Thierry Henry's No. 14 in tribute to former Arsenal star.
Both stories can be found at www.mercurynews.com/sports