SAN JOSE, Calif. – As an MLS rookie who has leapt almost immediately into the San Jose Earthquakes starting lineup, Adam Jahn is immersed daily in graduate-level work learning how to be a professional forward.
With his 6-foot-3 frame, it would be easy to assume that the teammates who can most help Jahn learn his professional tradecraft are fellow target men Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart, whose injuries opened the door for Jahn to play in the first place.
Instead, it might be club talisman Chris Wondolowski who can impart the best lessons. Wondolowski has scored 63 regular-season goals since 2010 – including 27 last year to tie the MLS all-time record – despite not having been blessed with a surfeit of speed.
Given that the biggest knock on Jahn was also a lack of foot speed, the Stanford product has been taking careful notes of how Wondolowski gets into the goal-scoring positions that he does.
“I learn a lot from Wondo, just watching him,” Jahn told MLSsoccer.com this week. “He’s so good at the little things, and they just add up. ... He makes great runs. So I look at what kind of run he’s making and I try to implement that into my game.”
So far, it’s been working; Jahn scored an equalizer and drew the penalty kick that Wondolowski converted for the game-winner in a 2-1 victory against New York on March 10, then provided the pressure that led to an errant header from Seattle defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado just before halftime last weekend. Wondolowski collected the loose ball, then curled in a beautiful shot from outside the area to deliver a 1-0 win for the Quakes.
Jahn is in line to potentially make a third career start at Houston on Saturday. That’s especially likely if veteran Mike Fucito, who has missed two weeks after a crunching tackle in the Red Bulls match, is still sidelined.
Interestingly ehough, San Jose coach Frank Yallop used similar language to Jahn’s description of Wondolowski in describing Jahn himself.
“[Jahn] plays up against people very well,” Yallop said. “I think he keeps the ball moving for us very well. He challenges. And challenging is important, because he made the goal for Wondo, by just backing in and making it difficult for Hurtado to head it. Wondo [had a] great touch, great finish, but that doesn’t happen if it’s a free header and [Hurtado] heads it away, we don’t have a goal. So little bits of the game are important. And Adam does the little things well.”
Jahn will have to keep honing those skills if he wants to progress as a pro. Asked if there was more speed for Jahn that could be unlocked through workouts and conditioning, Yallop was quick to knock down that notion.
“No,” Yallop said. “I mean, he’s 22. He is what he is. You can work on his feet and be a little quicker, but he’s not going to all of a sudden run in the Olympics in the 100 meters, is he?”
That said, the new Quakes have never had a forward with the speed to get behind defenses and track down lead passes for one-on-one opportunities. So they’re well-versed in how to score without that club in the bag. And Jahn fits in snugly with that attack.
“[Jahn] doesn’t look flustered, which is a really good trait for a young player,” Yallop said. “He’s not nervous, at all, in his play. ... He plays the game kind of like a veteran, to be honest. It’s like he’s been here forever.”
Jahn hasn’t, of course, which is why he’s trying to soak up as much as he can from all corners of the San Jose roster, as fast as possible.
“All the forwards here, I’m learned something from,” Jahn said. “It’s just been a great learning experience for me with veteran forwards. I mean, we have six guys in here that are seasoned veterans in MLS. They all have something to teach me, and I’m grateful to be learning from them.”