SANTA CLARA -- Jaime Alas celebrated his 24th birthday last week at home in San Salvador while waiting for a work visa to join the Earthquakes.

When it finally was approved the El Salvadoran midfielder flew to San Jose in time for two practices before making his debut against Chivas USA.

Alas might have played for only 13 minutes but he could find himself in the mix Wednesday when the Earthquakes open the CONCACAF Champions League tournament at Montreal.

The Champions Cup includes 24 of the top teams in the North America, Central America and Caribbean region known as CONCACAF. Joining San Jose and Montreal in Group 5 is C.D. Heredia, which won Guatemala's spring championship. The winner of the round-robin play advances to the quarterfinals.

Each region holds its own club championship though none is bigger than Europe's, which often features such titans as AC Milan, Bayren Munich, Liverpool, Manchester United and Real Madrid.

The Montreal Impact (10-6-5, MLS) qualified for the regional event by winning the Canadian Championship whereas the Quakes advanced as Supporters' Shield winners last year.

Although the MLS playoffs are the primary focus for the Earthquakes, the Champions League tournament provides a chance for some of their reserves to get valuable playing time. San Jose is playing three games in eight days and has a league showdown at Vancouver on Saturday.

"We're going to play healthy, rested players," interim coach Mark Watson said of the next two games.

Alas is a prime candidate to start on the wing after his cameo Saturday night.

"I just need more minutes," he said after his first appearance.

It has taken the 5-foot-8 outside midfielder two years to get to Major League Soccer after Watson, then an assistant to Frank Yallop, saw him in the 2011 CONCACAF Gold Cup. The team reached a six-month loan deal with Rosenborg BK, one of Norway's best teams.

Alas is one of three new players the Quakes have signed this summer. The newcomers not only are expected to help the team make a late-season run to the MLS playoffs but also provide relief for the extra-heavy schedule because of Champions League competition.

Alas, whose two brothers also are professional soccer players, hopes to make a name for himself in San Jose. Watson has said the player's style is suited to MLS.

But most American fans remember him as the one who helped eliminate the United States from the 2012 Olympics by scoring an equalizing goal in extra time during the final qualifying game.

Alas looked as quick as advertised in his brief debut Saturday. But it also is clear he needs to get used to teammates to figure out the timing of runs to the goal.

The midfielder played in only three games for Rosenborg last season so Alas hopes this audition can turn into something more permanent.

"At the end of the day I want to play here," he said in Spanish. "I think I will be happy here."

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