The man who’s made his home in a half-dozen MLS stadiums helped the San Jose Earthquakes win for the first time on the road this season.
Atiba Harris, the ninth-year MLS veteran with stints at Real Salt Lake, Chivas USA, FC Dallas, Vancouver and Colorado on his resume, knocked home the Quakes’ first goal in what would eventually be a 2-1 victory over 10-man Dallas on Saturday.
It was a second consecutive game with a goal for Harris, who tallied a career-best five times with Colorado last season before coming over to San Jose in a winter trade.
“We knew he’s a big, athletic guy that had goals in him,” Quakes coach Mark Watson told reporters at Toyota Stadium. “Sometimes it just takes a little while to get comfortable with your surroundings, your teammates, just everything.
“He’s getting better and better, and his performances the past couple of weeks have been his best, and he’s been rewarded with goals on both occasions. He’s definitely improving week by week.”
Harris created his goal last week against Houston by hustling to a hopeful long ball and catching Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall out of his area. This time, he was the recipient of what he termed a “great layoff” from teammate Steven Lenhart after a flicked corner kick scythed through Dallas’ penalty box, and Harris slotted his shot neatly past Chris Seitz.
“I’ve been here for a few months now, and I’m beginning to feel a bit more comfortable on the field with these guys,” Harris said. “Having guys who are actually playing me the ball and getting me more touches, creating more chances for the attacking players, is really good.”
The Quakes now have five goals in their past two games despite missing World Cup-bound talisman Chris Wondolowski – San Jose’s leading scorer, captain and only Designated Player.
“I thought Atiba did great tonight,” Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch said. Obviously, he’s a presence in the air and he’s a good goalscorer. To get him starting to produce goals is very important for this team.”
Equally as critical: San Jose’s ability to break their 0-3-1 run of futility away from Buck Shaw Stadium. The Quakes moved into sixth place in the Western Conference in terms of points per game, leapfrogging Dallas and Portland (pending the Timbers’ match Sunday) in the process.
“It’s huge,” Watson said. “It’s hard to win games on the road in this league. I just think it’ll be a big boost for our confidence, especially the way it happened. They must have played 50 balls forward that we had to defend, and we did a great job.
“It just kind of showed the group, if we apply ourselves and have the correct mentality, regardless of what’s thrown at us, we can get the job done.”
Said Harris: “It wasn’t always pretty for long stretches of the game, but we came out [with the win]. That’s what’s most important for us right now.”