SAN JOSE, Calif. — In 640 minutes as a San Jose Earthquakes rookie last season, primarily at right back, Steven Beitashour recorded exactly zero assists.
Perhaps that’s why opponents this year have consistently failed to show much urgency in closing out Beitashour after he collects the ball near the midfield stripe.
The Portland Timbers didn’t react with much vigor last Saturday when Beitashour came onto the ball in the 67th minute. So using another example of what’s fast becoming a patented move — taking two uncontested dribbles from the center of the pitch and delivering a perfectly placed lead pass — Beitashour set up Alan Gordon’s point-saving goal in a 1-1 tie.
That gives Beitashour a team-high four assists in just 765 minutes of play this year.
“I want my fullbacks to get forward and get crosses in, and Steve’s done that,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “[Ramiro Corrales] whips good balls in, so does [Bobby] Convey at times. The timing in [Beitashour’s] have been perfect. Our big boys have gotten on the end of them.”
It shouldn’t be wholly unexpected that Beitashour would emerge as an offensive threat. In 57 appearances with San Diego State, he had eight assists. And twice at Leland High in San Jose, Beitashour was the team’s offensive player of the year.
“I’m looking for the big guys and where they’re running,” said Beitashour, who assisted on three strikes by Steven Lenhart and Gordon’s first goal with the Quakes. “I put it ahead of them, and they do the rest. ... I’ve just got better forwards now, so the assists get tallied up.”
It’s also not luck — not when Beitashour keeps repeating his success week after week.
“[Assistant coach] Mark Watson works with me after practice on those exact [situations],” Beitashour said. “He plays me the ball, tells me to take my touch and then just whip it in. Repetition in practice helps me during the game hitting good balls for the guys.”
Beitashour, when healthy, has clearly moved to the top of Yallop’s depth chart at right back. Saturday’s start ended a five-game absence due to a high ankle sprain Beitashour suffered on his right leg in a 2-0 loss to Chivas USA on July 6. It’s an impressive ascent for someone selected 30th overall in the 2010 SuperDraft.
“I’ve always liked Steve,” Yallop said. “Everything I thought would happen has happened. He’s quick, difficult to get around, defensively he’s quick and strong. I want him to get forward more — which he’s starting to do — pick and choose [his spots]. I think he’s done well and it’s been a very good season for Steve. And I think he helps our team.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes