San Jose Earthquakes' Marco Urena finds rewards for tireless hustle

SAN JOSE, Calif. – When reporters asked San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski about teammate Marco Ureña’s goal Saturday night after the Earthquakes’ 2-1 victory against Columbus Crew SC, the team captain made sure to point out the identity of the man whose dogged sprint forced Crew SC defender Jonathan Mensah into a turnover near midfield to ignite the whole scoring sequence.

That player being none other than Ureña himself.

“I think that goal was just a microcosm of how much work he does put in, game in and game out,” Wondolowski said. “He’s the one who tracks down Mensah at midfield and wins the ball back.  

"He does that so many times, where it doesn’t necessarily get in the box score. It was great for him to finish it off tonight.”

In his first MLS season since coming over from Danish side Brøndby IF, Ureña has shown a tireless appetite for work. His goal scoring abilities have come to the fore in recent weeks, with a pair of league tallies on either side of his four-match absence while leading the line for Costa Rica at last month’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

On Saturday, Ureña’s efforts tracking back paid dividends just before halftime. After dispossessing Mensah, Ureña fed the ball to Tommy Thompson, who quickly cycled it out to Shea Salinas on the wing. Salinas played a ball into space in the Columbus area, affording Ureña the opportunity to tie up Crew defender Alex Crognale before precisely placing his shot to the back post past onrushing goalkeeper Zack Steffen.

“Marco puts so much into it, every game he plays,” said San Jose head coach Chris Leitch said. “Not just scoring goals, but defensively, and the runs he makes. The guy makes eight or nine runs for every ball he gets. I think that’s what a good forward does.”

Ureña’s recent scoring run comes at a good time. Danish import Danny Hoesen, who has found his footing after an uneven start, is always an option for Leitch. And newly signed playmaker Vako Qazaishvili, who struck the woodwork Saturday and had another chance denied by Steffen as a late substitute, is getting closer to 90-minutes fit with every passing day.

“I think when you have competition like that, you just enjoy the minutes that you have and you try to do your best because it’s really difficult to fight against guys like this level,” Ureña said. “They have good quality with their skills. I just try to do my best, give everything for the team any time I’m on the field, and then the coach is going to choose who he’s going to play.”

There’s also the motivation of wanting to match the work ethic shown by Wondolowski, who still stays later than almost any Quakes player at training despite sitting at No. 4 on the MLS all-time scoring list -- now just three goals behind Jaime Moreno, after another strike Saturday.

“Wondo is a player – you see this guy fight for each ball, he’s running the whole 90 minutes,” Ureña said. “When you play close to one guy like this, you have to do the same thing as him. You get this motivation from him. Especially when he is 34 years old. I’m 27, so I have to do better than him.”