SANTA CLARA, Calif. — David Bingham’s first-team professional debut will be forever remembered for his stunning 90-yard blast that bounded perfectly into the back of West Bromwich Albion’s net during the San Jose Earthquakes’ 2-1 win at Buck Shaw Stadium on Tuesday.
But the Quakes’ rookie goalkeeper might have made an even better impression with the more mundane aspects of his performance.
“He looked great, looked sharp, made some very good saves,” said Quakes coach Frank Yallop, who couldn’t resist adding, “and he’s our top goal-scorer right now.”
Bingham may have scored his first professional goal just three minutes into the match, overcooking a lead pass for Scott Sealy and bouncing it over the head of apparently sun-addled West Brom 'keeper Boaz Myhill, but it took another 17 minutes for the former All-American from Cal to notch his first save as a Quake.
It came when West Brom’s Jerome Thomas, by far the night’s most dangerous player, cut inside from the left wing and delivered a shot from near the corner of the Quakes’ penalty box. The 6-foot-2 Bingham used a two-hand shove to push it up and over the crossbar.
That was one of three saves Bingham made on the evening. The other two came at the expense of West Brom striker Peter Odemwingie, a 15-goal scorer last season in the English Premier League.
Incumbent starter Jon Busch doesn’t need to polish up his résumé just yet, but Bingham’s performance will do nothing to combat the feeling that the Quakes found Busch’s long-term replacement when Bingham fell to them in a weighted MLS lottery shortly after this year’s SuperDraft.
“I just wanted to show the coaches that, if they need me, I can play,” Bingham said. “So it was good that I got the start today. I had to do well and I did.”
Bingham said he felt some nerves before arriving at Buck Shaw Stadium, but they didn’t show through on the field.
“It’s a little different [than Reserve League matches], but if you let your nerves get the better of you, you’re not going to perform well, so I just had to block it out and go with it,” Bingham said.
At times during training this year, Bingham has seemed shaky in terms of his command of the penalty box. There was none of that in evidence on Tuesday, however, which came as no surprise to Yallop.
“He’s a gamer,” Yallop said. “You only get tested in matches. Training and all the things we talk about, it doesn’t matter until you stand out in the middle of the goal in a real game. It’s no points [in the MLS standings], but it’s a real proper game, where you can lose your nerve. I don’t think he did.”
Facing the media after the match, Bingham showed a veteran’s touch in passing credit on to his back line for not allowing any breakaways or putting him in awkward situations.
But the one thing he won’t do is search out replays of what’s bound to be his most famous moment for a long while — even though he didn’t see the goal happen in real time, having turned away in disgust at pumping the ball well out of Sealy’s reach.
“It went in the goal,” Bingham said, “so that was good enough.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes