Dawkins finding space, scoring goals for resurgent Quakes

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Simon Dawkins’ success can no longer be described as just a fluke.

Dawkins tallied twice in April for the San Jose Earthquakes — who took in the 23-year-old on a one-year loan from Tottenham Hotspur — before being sidelined for more than a month due to compartment syndrome in both calves.

Following surgery on each leg to relieve the situation, in which muscle tissue grows too large for the surrounding fascia sheath, or compartment, Dawkins has picked up where he left off. The attacking midfielder scored a goal in back-to-back victories to help San Jose claw their way above .500 for the first time all season.

“I think some people around the league are starting to realize that when he’s on the field, he’s very, very dangerous,” Quakes defender Jason Hernandez said.

Indeed, with four goals in just 483 minutes, Dawkins ranks seventh overall among MLS players in terms of his scoring rate. He’s tallying goals at a faster pace (0.75 goals per 90 minutes) than teammate Chris Wondolowski (0.55), the league’s leading goal-scorer from 2010. He’s even beating the LA Galaxy’s Landon Donovan (0.74), who currently leads MLS with eight goals this year.

           WATCH: Dawkins strikes against DC
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Most notably, Dawkins is scoring in a way that complements the work of Wondolowski and hat-trick hero Steven Lenhart. Where Wondolowski is a clinical one-touch finisher and Lenhart is a powerful physical force, Dawkins has specialized in cutting defenses to ribbons with slashing runs that often leave defenders watching helplessly as he bears down on and then slots the ball past an exposed goalkeeper.

“His ability to get in and out of trouble with the ball at his feet,” Hernandez said when asked to enumerate Dawkins’ strongest assests. “His ability to find seams and passing lanes when they look like they’re not there. And I think also his balance; he’s able to take a bump and take what might put another player off a play, he can kind of absorb that and keep going and continue with the ball and still find ways to make plays for us. I think those three things combined make for a really dangerous player.”

Three of Dawkins’ four goals have sprung from sequences ignited by his own passing, with give-and-go assists on through balls being recorded by Wondolowski, Sam Cronin and Lenhart. Even the outlier still rewarded Dawkins’ industry and vision with a through ball — a pass from Bobby Convey that threaded its way through three defenders.

“I think because he makes the runs so strongly and precisely that you kind of have to give it back to him,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “The big thing for me is that he makes great runs in the right areas, but he doesn’t always run behind [the defense]. He’s got such a mix to his game that sometimes he plays it, fakes to go forward, drops off and gets the ball again. And then when he feels it’s on and the space is there, he’ll play it and go. He’s just a very intelligent footballer, and I think that he’s been great for us.”

To Dawkins, the fashion in which his goals have come is no real surprise. Movement has always been essential for a player who goes 5-foot-10 and 160 pounds.

“That’s always been my game, from when I was young. If you give the ball and you move again, it’s hard for a defender to keep up with you because when you’ve got the ball, you’re in control.”

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes