SAN JOSE, Calif. — With Chris Wondolowski off on US national team duty last weekend, the Houston Dynamo probably thought they’d be spared any unhappy reminders of the trade that brought the 2010 Golden Boot winner to San Jose from Texas.
And then Steven Beitashour came along to twist the knife.
Wondolowski may have been the centerpiece of the June 2009 deal between the current and former Quakes franchises, but San Jose also received another piece in exchange for forward Cam Weaver.
Houston gave up a second-round draft pick in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, one which the Quakes used to select Beitashour, a San Jose native and former Spartan Stadium ballboy.
So it might have been especially painful to watch Beitashour starting at right back and playing some of the most composed soccer in his Quakes career in San Jose’s 2-0 win against Houston last Saturday. That included a beautiful, curling delivery from 40 yards out to the penalty spot in the 69th minute, which teammate Steven Lenhart converted into his first Quakes goal via a full-length, diving header.
“It was a great ball, man,” Lenhart said afterwards. “We’ve been practicing that a little bit. He put a great ball in. If I had missed it, I would have been pretty upset.”
For Beitashour, who made his third start in five matches after sitting out nine of the Quakes’ first 10 games, it was his first career MLS assist. And it showed how a year with the team — even one in which he only played 640 minutes because of three separate injuries — has helped the 24-year-old from San Diego State grow more comfortable when he does step into the starting lineup.
“[I’m] a lot more comfortable,” Beitashour said. “You know the guys, know the way the coaches want you to play. Having a year under your belt is nice.”
Color San Jose coach Frank Yallop suitably impressed.
“It takes a while for guys to bed in and figure out what you need to do in a professional environment to play and do well,” Yallop said. “His performance was [that of] a seasoned professional. I thought he handled anybody who came at him well. One-v-one, he’s difficult to get by.”
As a second-year player, Beitashour is more readily able to speak up to teammates about positioning issues, and to more authoritatively hand off players for marking by San Jose’s center backs.
He also has put his time on the bench to good use, learning how and when to commit to jumping a passing lane from observing the work of more seasoned teammates.
“Bobby Convey and Ramiro [Corrales] are great players at reading where [opponents] are going to go,” Beitashour said. “So when I was on the bench, just watching how they read the game, it helps me a lot. And then, when I come in, I kind of try to do what they do.”
To keep doing what they do, Beitashour must hold off veteran Chris Leitch, who has seven starts at right back for San Jose this season.
Toward that goal, Beitashour revamped his eating during the winter — “a lot more water and fluids” was as much as he would give away — and made sure to get more rest in order to avoid an injury similar to the ones that knocked him off track last year, such as a right hamstring strain in May and a sprained right knee in July.
“My main thing is just try to stay healthy,” Beitashour said. “I had three little spurts of starts and then I got hurt on three different occasions. It’s frustrating. I know it happens, but … that’s the one thing that I got from last year.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes