Beitashour impressing early at right back
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Through his two-plus seasons in MLS, Steven Beitashour is best known for his quickness on the pitch. After playing every minute for the San Jose Earthquakes in league play this season, Beitashour is being forced to get quicker in terms of his off-field recoveries as well.
“You’ve got to do what you can, get in the ice bath and take care of your body for those games,” Beitashour said of surviving the Quakes’ recent stretch of three matches in eight days. “It’s not necessarily that you’re tired, but you just get those nicks and bruises, and they don’t have time to recover.”
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Beitashour is one of four San Jose players to have logged all 990 minutes this year, joining defender Justin Morrow, forward Chris Wondolowski and goalkeeper Jon Busch in the team’s Ironman Club. One could easily argue that Beitashour has it the roughest in terms of fatigue; playing as an offensive-minded right back, the 25-year-old is constantly on the move probing for weaknesses in the opposition’s back four, yet his defensive responsibilities also require 40-yard sprints without warning.
But Beitashour’s doing more than simply filling a spot on the field for coach Frank Yallop. The San Jose native has played well enough this year — building on his eye-opening work in 2011, when he had a team-high seven assists in only 19 matches — to spark talk that he could be an eventual replacement for longtime US right back Steve Cherundolo.
“It’s been a goal of mine since I was a little kid to play in a World Cup,” Beitashour said. “If I’m on the radar, hopefully they’ll give me a call and hopefully I can impress them.”
To this point, Beitashour said he hasn’t had any discussions with officials from the US national team program, which is slated to announce on Sunday the full list of players who will be brought in for three friendlies and a pair of World Cup qualifiers coming up next month.
United States head coach Jurgen Klinsmann announced his first 16 players on Tuesday — a list which did not contain Beitashour — with a possibility of as many as 13 additional spots open. It would be an unexpected turn of events if Beitashour were to jump right in and make his debut in such a pressure-packed environment, but the idea of Beitashour participating in the Americans’ January 2013 camp is not so far-fetched.
“I think he’s definitely on the radar,” said Wondolowski, who is a strong candidate for possible inclusion on Klinsmann’s squad. “He has to continue to keep it going. The thing about [a January camp] is, a lot of it just has to do with whether your stock’s on the rise, and ... I think Beitashour’s been playing wonderfully this year.”
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Beitashour has an interesting potential fallback position. As a holder of dual citizenship in both the US and Iran — from which his parents emigrated before Beitashour was born — he could play for either country. The Iranian national team, which qualified for the 1998 and 2006 World Cups, have reached the fourth stage of Asian Football Confederation qualifying for the 2014 edition and have been in contact with Beitashour on multiple occasions.
In the meantime, there are still plenty of matches to be played for Beitashour on the Quakes’ behalf this year. With Tim Ward injured for more than a year, San Jose don’t have a legitimate second option at right back. Fortunately for them, Beitashour is holding up his end despite the workload.
“First and foremost, you’ve got to be able to defend,” Yallop said. “I think Steve’s a very good defender from that position. He’s very alert. He’s so quick and aggressive when he closes people down or goes forward. He’s a difference-maker.”
Beitashour looked worn down in Vancouver two weeks ago; at the end of a three-games-in-eight days stretch, the Whitecaps’ Omar Salgado was able to wreak some havoc at Beitashour’s expense on the Quakes’ right flank in Vancouver’s 2-1 victory.
Yallop speculated that playing on the Whitecaps’ artificial surface might have exacerbated Beitashour’s fatigue. Though Beitashour couldn’t rule it out, he did make clear that he doesn’t expect a repeat performance when San Jose return to BC Place on July 22 — a match which will mark the tail end of another three-match week for the Quakes.
“It could be the third game in a week, it could be the turf,” Beitashour said. “But it won’t happen again.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.