SAN JOSE, Calif. – The San Jose Earthquakes had tremendous success using three forwards at a time last season. So maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise last weekend when the Quakes featured four forwards on the pitch by the conclusion of their 1-1 tie against Colorado.
San Jose opened with Alan Gordon and Chris Wondolowski along the frontline. When central midfielder Rafael Baca was felled by a hamstring strain in the first half, rookie forward Adam Jahn came on in a straight switch. As the Quakes chased a tying goal, Steven Lenhart was inserted in the 56th minute in place of another midfielder Sam Cronin, with Wondolowski sliding out to the wing and wide midfielder Walter Martinez tucking inside to accommodate the change.
The firepower eventually paid off – although it was natural winger Marvin Chávez who did the damage, first drawing a foul, then cashing in with a 30-yard free kick in the 78th minute.
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Head coach Frank Yallop often used Gordon, Lenhart and Wondolowski together in the second half of last season, mostly in the final half-hours of games as the Quakes sought – and often found – a game-winning goal. But it was surprising to see the 6-foot-3 Jahn brought on as an attacking midfielder, even if, as Yallop said at the time, that it was “an easy decision to make.”
“I think Adam’s done well,” Yallop said this week. “And again, he can play multiple positions. I think he proved that. I thought he played well when he came on, had a good chance right as he came on, and then had some good late runs into the box, some good play.
"So he’s an attacking guy from that spot. Is he a dribbling sort of playmaker? No. But he’s effective, good on the ball, passes it well.”
For Jahn, it was a trip back in time. The 22-year-old played attacking midfielder regularly in high school after serving as a center back and defensive midfielder in youth leagues, and reprised the role as a junior at Stanford when the Cardinal lacked options there.
“It was a little foreign to me,” Jahn admitted this week. “I hadn’t played it in a while, and never at this level. But the coaches gave me some tips to play by. I was basically more of an attacking-minded midfielder, under-forward. So it wasn’t too different.”
With Baca still a question mark, the Quakes could conceivably use three or even four forwards again against FC Dallas on Saturday (8:30 pm ET, MLS Live) – especially if San Jose falls behind, as has been the case in 10 of 13 matches so far this season.
“Adam’s versatile enough,” Yallop said. “He’s not slow at all. Is he lightning quick? No. But he gets it done. And I think that, for me, is what it’s all about.”
Said Jahn: “If we’re down, we’re going to put everything we have into winning the game. I thought we were going to get another one last game, but we ran out of time.”
Geoff Lepper covers the San Jose Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com.