Quakes set to hand Beitashour debut start

Leitch's absence forces Frank Yallop to give youngster a shot

Frank Yallop, San Jose Earthquakes

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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.