STANFORD, Calif. – Given the somewhat unfamiliar context of the San Jose Earthquakes’ 1-0 win over Minnesota Stars FC in the US Open Cup on Tuesday night, the win ultimately had an awfully familiar feel to it.
The Quakes, fielding three players that have seen minimal action this season in Sam Garza, Jean-Marc Alexandre and David Bingham – and doing so against a non-MLS opponent – looked to be headed for extra time until Steven Lenhart nodded in a Steven Beitashour cross with five minutes remaining.
Throw in Marvin Chávez’s hockey assist on a ball into space for Beitashour, and that's a trio of players that’s been playing this song all season long for the Earthquakes.
Following the game, both Lenhart, who took his goal total to six in all competitions, and Beitashour were quick to underscore the familiarity that's bred success.
“It’s huge to have [Beitashour] on the field and crossing balls in,” Lenhart enthused. “He does a good job getting forward and a few that do make it a cross are good balls. Keeps himself active and it’s fun to play with him.”
Beitashour, who leads the team in assists with six in all competitions explained that it certainly helped his confidence having targets like Lenhart and Alan Gordon – whom he referred to as the “twin towers” – to aim for.
“You just kind of put it up there and they do the rest, so with Lenny it’s just great, he finishes almost everything with his head,” the third-year fullback explained. “All I try to do is get the ball up in the air – it’s close to going out, but I’m like, ‘Just get the ball up in the air and Lenny will do the rest.’”
It may sound like a fairly simple formula, but it's one that's worked out just fine for San Jose.
And though the winning goal had a familiar ring to it, head coach Frank Yallop insisted that the victory was not necessarily a product of reverting to a tried-and-true formula, but rather the result of squad rotation and his team’s strength in depth.
“As every MLS coach will say – and we’ve been on the end of losing results in this tournament – we don’t take this tournament lightly, we want to win it,” Yallop said. “But you’ve got to manage people’s bodies and minds.”
Those management skills will certainly be put to the test in the upcoming month. After a two-week break, the Quakes kick off a grueling stretch of six games in 18 days with back-to-back trips to Colorado and Real Salt Lake.
“Don’t worry about it too much, just kind of pick the guys that are going to go and play,” Yallop replied when asked how he’d handle the stretch. “If I make a big deal of it we’ll get all flustered as a team, but [I] make the strong decisions and make sure that everyone’s comfortable with what I’m doing, which they are.”
Not only are Yallop’s players comfortable with the decisions he’s been taking, some are even looking forward to testing themselves further in the upcoming stretch of games.
“It’s totally good for our team. The more games the better,” Lenhart said of moving on in the Open Cup. “Guys get opportunities to play in these games.
“We like to win. The more games that we play, the more we mesh, the more we learn about each other, the more we build character and camaraderie.”