Second round but not second rate

Morrow and Beitashour provide fine examples of late-round picks that have proved their worth

Second-round draft picks don’t have to be second rate.

The Earthquakes nabbed Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour at Nos. 28 and 30 overall in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, and look where the outside defenders are today - in the U.S. National Team camp after breakout MLS seasons.

Well, the Earthquakes are back for seconds in the 2013 MLS SuperDraft, presented by adidas, with the Nos. 33 and 34 overall picks in the second round, along with No. 15 in the first round. The Earthquakes got the No. 33 pick in the deal that sent 2010 first-round pick (No. 3 overall) Ike Opara to Sporting Kansas City on Dec. 12.

It might be Goonie-esque thinking to expect two future MLS All-Star starters to emerge from Round 2 again, but these Earthquakes are all about possibilities. They’re also looking to add depth.

“We were in a little different position then (in 2010),” general manager John Doyle said. “It was like we really needed to build. I think now we just need to add. Over the last year Beitashour and Morrow have been phenomenal for us and developed into really solid MLS players. But they’re still young, and so you’re hoping you can land someone else in an area where we’re a little older, or if those guys ever move on or get injured, you have guys that can replace them.”

Morrow (Notre Dame) and the San Jose native Beitashour (San Diego State ), along with 2012 MLS Most Valuable Player Chris Wondolowski, are all in the U.S. National Team camp. The trio looks to earn caps in a Jan. 29 friendly against Canada at Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium (6 p.m. PT /ESPN2, WatchESPN). Morrow and Beitashour, who is on the mend from surgery to repair a sports hernia in November, are trying to earn their first caps.

Alan Gordon stood to be the fourth Quakes player at the national camp but is not 100 percent after undergoing a left hip arthroscopy to fix a torn labrum in November.

Beitashour, whose parents came to the United States from Iran, has other options should U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann look elsewhere. The Iran national team continues to pursue him.

“They’ve tried to get me out to the past two Qualifier games (1-0 loss against Uzbekistan; 1-0 win over Korea Republic), but it’s very tricky, the paperwork that goes into it. There’s numerous forms that I have to get and give back, and so it’s been a long process. They’ve invited me to the last two Qualifiers, but because of paperwork I couldn’t go over there.”

Morrow and Beitashour, both 25, were among the key components in the Earthquakes’ drive to the Supporters’ Shield, with attack-minded styles. Like so many top former college players, they’ve found their niche as pros in positions they didn’t necessarily excel at growing up.

The fact they are forever linked as draft diamonds in the rough, are pals, and frame the Quakes defense, with Morrow on the left and Beitashour on the right, has added to the charm of their stories.

“Justin and I are real, real good friends on and off the field,” Beitashour said. “ Lots of similarities being drafted just two picks apart and then just coming in together. He was kind of a midfielder/forward when he was younger, and then in college I think he went to left back halfway in his senior year. I was always a center midfielder or a forward, and going to college was when I really learned how to be a defender.

“Now, it’s funny. We’re making a living out of it, so … But yeah, I’m really excited for both Wondo and Morrow.”

Beitashour believes he needs to avoid being satisfied with his progress and keep working hard to find success internationally.

“Some people try to get there (as professionals) and they settle, so I’ve been trying, and what I learned from the older guys, is to continue to work hard and never settle. That’s something like sitting back and crossing after practice, getting stronger, and working on little things like that: just always working hard is one of the main things.”

He credits the Earthquakes' success last season with keeping him on the national team map. The whole group hopes Wondolowski cements his spot with the national program.

“We all saw this coming with Wondo,” Beitashour said. “He’s had an outstanding past three years, so I hope he really gets a chance to prove himself. He’s been called in a couple of times, but I don’t know … Klinsmann hasn’t been impressed, but I think if he sees him, really sees him, he’ll definitely keep Wondo around.”

Likewise, a couple of upstart second-round picks figure to impress as American soccer stars for the long haul.