Dutch forward Danny Hoesen has been an interesting case for the Quakes this season. He undoubtedly possesses one of the purest, most powerful shots in MLS and has a flair for the extravagant. Media members who have observed him in training repeatedly seem taken aback by his display in finishing drills and the team’s talented trio of goalkeepers can often be overheard joking about how to attempt a save on his long-range blasts. It also doesn’t hurt that the 26-year-old possesses good speed and, at 6-1, is among the team’s best options in the air.
But at the beginning of 2017, Hoesen’s ever-present talent didn’t produce tangible statistics. In fact, through the first two and half months of the season, he had a lone assist – on Florian Jungwirth’s late strike in Kansas City – and no goals. Something seemed… well, not quite right. Perhaps it was his unfamiliarity to the league. Perhaps he needed time to jell with his teammates. Perhaps it was simply a matter of misfortune, coming oh-so-close to scoring on a handful of occasions.
Whatever the case, Hoesen has seemed to figure it out. Since May 27, he has appeared in seven games – five in MLS, two in Open Cup – and has tallied three goals (one game-winner) and four assists (two game-winners), leading the team in both categories. In addition, he has been involved directly in several other goals, including both scores against the San Francisco Deltas on June 14.
After contributing a goal and an assist against the LA Galaxy on May 27, he then added another goal and assist against Real Salt Lake on June 24. A few days later in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Round of 16 against Seattle Sounders FC, Hoesen was not selected in the starting XI, in an effort to preserve him for the impending California Clasico. As the match drew closer and closer to the final whistle, the scored remained level and overtime seemed like a realistic fate.
With 20 minutes or so left on the clock, chants began to ring around Avaya Stadium, with fans screaming “DAN-NY HOE-SEN” over and over in a plea to get him onto the pitch. Head coach Chris Leitch had a decision to make – go for the win in regulation with attacking substitutions while running the risk of wearing down additional players, or leave his side unchanged and hope for a winner.
He chose to go for it.
Hoesen entered the match in the 77th minute with one clear goal – find a winner and prevent extra time. Seven minutes later, he did just that, playing a give-and-go with rookie Jackson Yueill and dribbling past several on-looking defenders before calmly slotting the ball to the keeper’s right.
“Danny coming on, being fresh, and especially given his recent run of form was very enticing,” said Leitch in his postgame press conference. “I was scared that the game would go into overtime, and we would overuse Danny a little bit ahead of Saturday, but that literally was the message to Danny when he came over was ‘You’re going to get a chance, finish the game off,’ and he did it like a cold-blooded forward.”
This past Saturday, Hoesen once again played a critical role in the outcome of the match. Taking possession of the ball in the 93rd minute, he drew the attention of several Galaxy defenders before feeding Shea Salinas for the game-winner that sent the crowd into a frenzy.
Former 49ers head coach and current Michigan Wolverine Jim Harbaugh often used to describe similar scenarios with a simple metaphor. When you flip over a jar packed with olives, none want to fall out, but as soon as you can get one loose, then they all fall out.
Quakes fans will certainly hope Hoesen is just getting started and there is no reason to believe he’s not.