SAN JOSE, Calif. — When San Jose midfielder Joey Gjertsen nodded home a deflected ball from barely more than an arm’s-length out last weekend against Colorado, it wasn’t just his first goal of the season. It marked an even larger first as well.
“I’ve never scored with my head before,” Gjertsen (above, right) explained to MLSsoccer.com.
Never scored with your head before as a professional, you mean?
“No," Gjertsen explained. "In my life. That’s including probably 90 high school goals, another 90 collegiate goals, another 25 professional. None with my head.”
Gjertsen is so much more comfortable with either foot than his head that he said if there had been more time and space, he would have let the ball — which took a high bounce after Rapids 'keeper Matt Pickens blocked Chris Wondolowski’s left-footed stab — fall to the deck for a tap-in attempt.
“It’s not often that I find myself in those positions,” Gjertsen said, "but off a deflection, it was just the right spot at the right time."
One might say the same thing about Gjertsen being back in San Jose’s lineup. He’s expected to make a third consecutive start when the Quakes travel to face the LA Galaxy on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), a fact made somewhat shocking when you consider Gjertsen made just one appearance in a two-month stretch beginning in late May.
“Sometimes your players lose confidence,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “I think that’s what happened to Joey. ... I think he’s done absolutely superb, been dangerous, had good technique, crossed some dangerous balls. He’s had a few [scoring] chances, made some good runs behind defenses. Joey’s back to how we know he can play.”
That’s been a great help to the Quakes, who have scored in back-to-back matches with Gjertsen on the right wing. That doesn’t sound like much, but it’s a significant improvement over the stretch that immediately preceded it, when San Jose were shut out in seven of nine matches.
Gjertsen, who has made a total of nine starts this year — though never more than three in a row — said he never lost faith in the notion he would get another chance.
“No, because you know the season’s long,” Gjertsen said. “I don’t think I’ve ever been the most consistent player, so I know there’s going to be ups and downs. It’s the times when [your] confidence is low that you’ve got to fight and work hard. That’s what I’ve been trying to do.”
The fight got even harder once Jacob Peterson — another natural right winger like Gjertsen — arrived via trade from Toronto FC last month. Gjertsen admitted that the Quakes’ move “definitely adds motivation for me,” but never let it affect his attitude.
“Joey’s a really positive person, in soccer or outside of soccer,” said Quakes rookie Ellis McLoughlin, a fellow Seattle-area native who is rooming with Gjertsen this season. “He’s got a good head on his shoulders. He just knew his time would come.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes