Beitashour Poised to Start at Right Back

Rookie and San Jose native Steven Beitashour may get the nod at right back for the Quakes on Sa

Steven Beitashour 032010_John Todd

Photo Credit: 
John Todd

Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop wouldn’t go so far this week as to
explicitly name his planned replacement for suspended right back Chris
Leitch when San Jose faces Chicago on Saturday. But he left the door for
interpretation open pretty wide.

And fans of hometown rookie
Steve Beitashour should be pleased with the result.

The choice
to fill in for Leitch—out after drawing a red card during the second
half of the Earthquakes’ season opener—comes down to Beitashour versus
fourth-year pro Bobby Burling.

Except Yallop makes it sound like
not that much of a choice, given the Fire’s quickness on the flanks.

“Bobby’s more experienced, Steve’s more a natural right back,”
Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s give and take. Both are capable. I
think with Chicago’s speed—Steve is quick, and they’ve got fast guys
wide. Bobby’s 6-foot-5, and he’s a center back, really. Read into that
what you want.”

It reads as Beitashour, a second-round
SuperDraft selection, is set to make his debut just two games into his
MLS career, giving the Earthquakes two rookies on their back line. Ike
Opara, the No. 3 overall pick, should make his second start at center
back alongside Jason Hernandez. Captain Ramiro Corrales will hold down
the left side.

“I think I’ve seen enough in Steve and in Ike to
trust them and not worry about them,” Yallop said. “Many a player plays
[early in their career] in this league, because it makes you do that.
Omar Gonzalez (the Galaxy’s eventual 2009 MLS Rookie of the Year)
played all last year, started the season out, and he’s been great. We
expect the same from Ike, and I expect Steve Beitashour to play well,
also.”

Beitashour acquitted himself well during preseason
matches, and Brandon McDonald, who is slated to step in at defensive
center midfielder, has confidence in the rookie.

“He’s a good
young guy,” McDonald said. “He’s got a lot of pace that he’s going to
add to the outside. He’s young, but I think the back line that we have,
with Jay back there and Ramiro, can teach him a little bit.”

Beitashour,
a 23-year-old graduate of San Jose’s Leland High School, grew up
watching the earlier incarnation of the Earthquakes, and even worked
the sidelines at Spartan Stadium on occasion—much to the chagrin of one
of Beitashour’s new teammates.

“It’s kind of embarrassing—he
said he was a ballboy for one of my games,” quipped 35-year-old goalie
Joe Cannon.

Beitashour still remembers the pain Quakes
supporters felt in 2005 when the team decamped to Houston. That was
part of why he attended a March 16 meeting of the San Jose City Council
and spoke out in favor of the team’s proposed new stadium. The council
voted later that night to remove one of the project’s last
bureaucratic hurdles.

“I went as a fan, a player, a member of the
community and on behalf of friends and family,” Beitashour said. “[In
2005,] guys went from loving the sport and loving the team to having no
team to cheer for. It was like, ‘Where’s your team now?’”

The
only downside to Beitashour’s probable debut is its timing. He had 40
friends and family at the Quakes’ season opener despite the fact that
he wasn’t even on the team’s 18-man active roster; had Beitashour been
expected to start at Buck Shaw Stadium instead of Toyota Park, that
number might have reached triple digits.

Geoff Lepper
covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com.
Follow him on Twitter at @sjquakes.