Bobby Burling has been busy of late manning the center of the San Jose Earthquakes’ defense. So his mother, Micci, was willing to overlook his lack of foresight when it came to gift shopping last weekend.
“My mom and my brother were in town,” Burling told MLSsoccer.com. “We didn’t get her anything for Mother’s Day. She said, ‘All I want is for you to score a header goal on Saturday night.’”
That was a tall order, even for the 6-foot-5 Burling. Although he was a forward at Loyola Marymount, he moved to the back line when he turned pro in 2007, and in 31 MLS appearances covering almost 2,500 minutes, Burling had scored exactly zero goals.
Until the 85th minute last Saturday, that is. Burling capped the Quakes’ 4-0 win over New York by slipping free from Red Bulls defender Mike Petke and hammering down a corner kick from Bobby Convey into the open far corner of the net.
“It’s been a while since I’ve experienced that feeling,” Burling said. “Obviously, anytime you can get a goal, it feels good, and to get my first one, it’s a monkey off my back, you could say. I’ve been waiting for that for a while.”
For something so long in coming, Burling’s reaction wasn’t exactly a display of condensed bacchanalia. Part of that stemmed from the fact that it would be unseemly to go nuts over a fourth goal in a game well in hand, but that didn’t stop the ribbing.
“I kind of pointed to [my mom] up in the stands on the jog back,” Burling said. “That’s as much as my celebration consisted of. I got a few text messages after the game saying, ‘You’ve got to do better than that.’”
Burling isn’t averse to doubling or even tripling his career scoring total, and he should get his chance Saturday against New England, when he’s slated to make a third consecutive start as the center-back partner of Jason Hernandez.
Rookie Ike Opara, who had started from Opening Night, is back from Wake Forest, having finished his junior-year classes, but has a tight hamstring -- and besides, Quakes coach Frank Yallop doesn’t like to change a winning side.
“He’s doing great, he’s played really well in the last two matches,” said Yallop, who addressed some of the criticism the team received after losing Shea Salinas to the Philadelphia Union in that franchise’s expansion draft.
“I always knew Bobby was a good player," Yallop continued. "I think a lot of times, you get judged before anything is ever done. Why keep Bobby Burling and let Shea Salinas go? Well, maybe we found out a little bit [last Saturday] -- that he’s a good player in this league. I think that that’s important, that we have players that contribute at the right times, and Bobby’s done it great.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes