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San Jose Earthquakes rookie hero Adam Jahn makes his case for starting role

SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Of all the things San Jose rookie forward Adam Jahn showed during his 24 game-changing minutes on the pitch in the Earthquakes’ 2-1 victory against New York on Sunday, the one that stood out the most for coach Frank Yallop was the absence of one item.

“He wasn’t afraid, mentally,” Yallop said Tuesday. “And that’s important. As a player, he’s good enough. It’s the mental side of the game where, can you play free of any thoughts of negative stuff? We just said to him, 'Go in there and make a difference.' And he certainly did that.”

Jahn might be called upon to do more than just influence the final stages of the Quakes’ next match, on the road Saturday in Columbus (5:30 pm ET, MLS LIVE).

Target men Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart are still a couple weeks out from full fitness, according to Yallop, and newcomer Mike Fucito, who has started both matches so far alongside Chris Wondolowski, took a slight hamstring strain into the Red Bulls match and doubled down with a gash on his left ankle from a New York player that required multiple stitches to close.

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“It was a pretty good gash and really swollen this morning,” Yallop said of Fucito. “So he could be a bit of a doubt.”

Yallop said last week that if Fucito – who was publicly touted as a question mark against New York – couldn’t play, his spot would likely be taken by second-year winger Sam Garza. That equation might have been upended, however, by Jahn’s production Sunday.

He scored his first professional goal in the 83rd minute, then won a penalty kick six minutes later to set up Wondolowski’s game-winning spot kick.

“Definitely,” Jahn said when asked if he was prepared to make his first professional start. “If [Yallop] calls on me, I’m there.”

Yallop tried to dampen expectations about the 22-year-old, pointing out the small sample size available.

READ: Find out if Jahn's game-changing performance earned him a spot on the Team of the Week

“It’s one game … but we’ve seen enough in preseason [to know] that he can play the position,” Yallop said of Jahn, the club’s first-round Supplemental Draft selection out of Stanford earlier this year. “I didn’t think he was ready to always be the man, to start, because it’s tough. You never know how he’s going to handle things.”

There’s also the possibility that the Quakes’ bench can’t afford to give up Jahn, given that they still lack Gordon, Lenhart, winger Marvin Chávez and attacking right back Steven Beitashour.

“As we proved last year, we don’t always play all our top guys from the start,” Yallop said. “It’s a 90-minute game, and I think off the bench we need to have definitely some people that can change the game. We had that Sunday.”

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