Shaun Francis emerges as unlikely starter at open right-back position for San Jose Earthquakes
SAN JOSE, Calif. – With Steven Beitashour traded to Vancouver, San Jose Earthquakes fans knew they would have to get used to another right back this season.
Few of those die-hards probably expected that replacement to wind up being Shaun Francis.
Yet as the Quakes have embarked on one of their most successful stretches this year – a season-best four-game unbeaten run that San Jose will put on the line against FC Dallas on Saturday night (10:30 pm ET; MLS Live) – it has been Francis, the left-footed 27-year-old out of Mandeville, Jamaica who has been starting in Beitashour’s old position.
Francis came on for an out-of-form Brandon Barklage at halftime against D.C. United on July 11. In four-and-a-half matches since then, the Quakes have allowed just four goals, and San Jose are on a 2-0-2 stretch with Francis playing opposite his typical left back spot.
“I don’t think it’s the norm, but Shaun’s done a good job there,” Quakes coach Mark Watson told reporters this week. “He’s a great defender, he’s a good athlete. He’s not completely comfortable [on the right], but I think he’s serviceable. He’s done a good job, and the team’s being playing well with him.”
Francis, who came to the Quakes via the Re-Entry Draft following four seasons spent in Columbus and Chicago, said this was the longest he’s been asked to play on the right side – but he has no complaints heading into what’s expected to be his fifth straight start at that position.
“Maybe once or twice,” Francis told MLSsoccer.com. “But not going into three, four or five games. … I don’t have a problem with it. If the coach wants you to play somewhere, you have to go out there and get the job done. You’re playing at the professional level, so you should be able to play anywhere on the field.”
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Francis’ next league start will tie his career-high at 10 on the season, and he’s in line to surpass his single-season best for MLS minutes played with another pair of full-time performances. It’s a nice turnaround for someone who had to spend the winter boning up on the intricacies of the Re-Entry Draft after being cut loose by the Fire.
“Personally, for me, I always look at things in a positive way,” Francis said. “So no matter where I ended up, I would look at it as a positive chance. You’re going into preseason, anything is possible.
"You go in, you work hard, there’s always a possibility of you getting a chance at playing. So I did not see it as being negative or anything like that. I’m going out there to work hard. That’s all you can do. … You can’t make it easy for the coach.”