Full steam ahead: Another attacking tandem
Those two Earthquakes players you see racing down the wings and creating scoring opportunities have to play defense too.
A lot of defense, actually.
But left back Justin Morrow and right back Steven Beitashour, two of the club’s breakout stars, relish their roles as soccer hybrids.
In as much as Chris Wondolowski and Co. gladly support the defense on the unified squad, Morrow and Beitashour are attack-from-the-back multi-taskers. Even if that means keeping their heads on a swivel and making 60-yard hasty retreats in pursuit of speedy opposing forwards.
"We’re having a blast, and Frank [Yallop] brings out the best out of everyone because he gives us that freedom to play," Beitashour said.
Indeed, the Quakes' aggressive mindset flows from a former savvy defender, coach Yallop.
"When I played I was an attacking fullback," Yallop said. "I didn't want to sit back and just defend. I wanted to go forward and help my team get a result. I think our defenders like to push forward. Obviously the wide fullbacks need to get forward and do those things, so I think they're excited to do that."
Morrow and Beitashour have some striking similarities:
Both are 25 years old and third-year pros who made their MLS All-Star Game debuts this season, playing effectively as bookend starters against English power Chelsea.
Both had two game-winning assists in the regular season and combined for 10 assists overall.
Both started 33 of the Quakes’ 34 games during the team's run to the Supporters' Shield.
Plus, they're about the same size ― Morrow is 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds and Beitashour is 5-10 and 170.
Youth also serves Beitashour and Morrow well.
"They're young and they like to get up and down the field," Yallop said. "Ramiro [Corrales] plays a little bit of a different style, but he likes to get forward too."
Beitashour and Morrow have "attacking soccer" in their resumes.
Beitashour played midfielder and defender his sophomore season at San Diego State, and was a four-year letterman at Leland High in San Jose who led the team in goals his final two seasons.
Morrow, who started in 44 matches his final two seasons at Notre Dame, made the switch from midfielder to left back midway through his senior season.
So, it's no wonder they don't look like lost tourists in an opponent's half of the field.
"I just think that’s kind of our personality and the way Frank wants us to play," said Beitashour, who has 13 assists combined over the past two regular seasons. "We love attacking, and our job is to defend, so that’s why we both do so much."
During a season of gaudy statistics and historic individual achievement, the Quakes’ well-coordinated buildups to the attack, overall fitness and depth tend to get overlooked.
"Everyone’s always going to be looking at Wondo to see if he scores the goal, but the hard work that goes around it people kind of look past it, so we just got to keep working hard," Beitashour said. "That’s been our motto the whole year: Give 110 percent every game and work for the guy next to you.
"If we keep that going, good things should come."