A thorny decision for San Jose Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop was suddenly put off Thursday.
Rookie Steven Beitashour, who held the starting right back spot for three weeks after Chris Leitch was ejected in the Quakes’ season opener, suffered a strained right hamstring in training.
According to Yallop, Beitashour won’t be available for the Quakes’ match Saturday against visiting Colorado. And that means a return to the starting XI for Leitch, the nine-year MLS veteran who was named San Jose’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2009.
“It’s very disappointing for us to have a guy who’s playing well go down,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “Chris Leitch is obviously very good; we shouldn’t miss a beat.”
The injury keeps Yallop from having to pick between the pair. Even though Leitch has been available for the Quakes’ last two games, Beitashour’s place was assured because San Jose was coming off a victory.
With the Quakes losing 3-2 to Chivas USA last weekend, that guarantee was no longer in place.
Leitch understood why Beitashour continued to start, and bided his time awaiting the call from Yallop.
“If you’re out of the side and the team plays well, gets a result, you just have to realize you don’t mess with a winning team,” Leitch told MLSsoccer.com. “I understand that. It makes perfect sense to me. It’s not like I’m sitting there saying, ‘Oh, crap,’ or worrying about not playing the last two games.”
The battle at right back has become more interesting largely because of Beitashour’s success. His speed helped San Jose win in Chicago for the first time since 1999 and only the second time in 14 all-time matches there. He also tallied an impressive goal in second-half injury time against Chivas, his first career MLS score.
Leitch said that he had been picking things up from the sideline during his time off the field.
“Most people throw around the term ‘veteran’ as if it just means you can step between the white lines and show up [and play well],” Leitch said. “I hate that term, ‘veteran.’ The day I stop learning, the day I stop being hungry, the day I stop competing is the day I need to step away. That’s why I take ‘veteran’ with a grain of salt. I think there’s a lot to learn.”
One thing Leitch won’t be doing is trying to do is go beyond his capabilities in an attempt to impress a coaching staff that’s been enjoying the recent contributions of Beitashour.
“I’m going to try to play hard-nosed defense, keep possession and whip in two or three dangerous balls,” Leitch said. “I just feel like I need to play my game, the way I’ve played last nine years. If I do that, everything’ll be fine.”
Beitashour will have company on the Quakes’ injury report: usual starter Arturo Alvarez is still shelved with his own hamstring problem.
However, there is some good news: forwards Eduardo and Cornell Glen, who also have missed time with hamstring strains, should be available off the bench Saturday.
“We’ve had four hamstrings in the last two weeks,” Yallop said. “We’re trying to figure out why.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter at @sjquakes.