Photo by Michael Janosz/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
CHESTER, Pa. — San Jose Earthquakes fullbacks Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow are rarely far apart from one another, whether it's during games shutting down opposing wingers, while running laps during training sessions or while on team road trips venturing into new cities.
It is quite fitting that the two MLS All-Star selections have become so close as teammates on the field and good friends off it, considering they entered the league within two picks of each other in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft.
Morrow, picked 28th overall out of Notre Dame, and Beitashour, taken 30th out of San Diego State, are both in the midst of career-best seasons for an Earthquakes team taking MLS by storm, but both have come a long away to establish themselves as key starters on a deep San Jose squad. Perhaps that is the reason the two defenders have drawn so close to one another and why they are so compatable away from the field.
"One of the things when we came in was just working hard," said Beitashour. "We weren't playing that much our rookie year and we just talked to each other and were like 'Keep working hard, working hard.' I think it's shown how well we've done for how hard we've worked."
The hard work has paid off. Beitashour and Morrow have emerged as two of the more talented young defenders during this campaign and both have earned MLS All-Star selections for the first times in their respective careers as a result.
They each have started every game this season, and Beitashour has provided six assists while Morrow has delivered one goal and two assists. Their contributions have helped the Earthquakes post the best record in the league, and the club looks like a real contender for the MLS Cup this season.
The duo, however, does not take all the credit for their successes this year.
"As a team, all of our players fit really well together," said Morrow. "We have a couple of new key additions but besides that, our core group, this is our third year that we've been together. Jason (Hernandez), (Jon Busch), (Chris Wondolowski), the veteran leadership on this team is incredible. The young guys like me and Steve have kind of grown into that, bought into the team mentality and it's shone through."
So much so that the inevitable talk of potential U.S. men's national team call-ups is beginning to be heard from both supporters and pundits around the league. While it is unlikely that the duo is called into any of the upcoming games for the United States, there is always the January camp that caters to MLS-based players on the verge of breaking through.
It's a topic of conversation that Beitashour and Morrow have had with one another, perhaps during one of their laps around the field. But they insist their focus remains on the task at hand.
"We talk about it a little bit but nothing crazy," said Beitashour, who is also eligible to represent Iran. "I think the main thing we try to focus on is just playing well every day (and) don't try to look too far into the future, because you can't tell what's going to go on. If you just play well, good things are going to come, so that's one thing we've been doing so far. Just got to keep it going."
Beitashour and Morrow's next chance to further build on their impressive campaigns will come on Wednesday, as the MLS All-Stars host UEFA Champions League winners Chelsea at PPL Park. The match could pit the Earthquakes defenders against the likes of Frank Lampard, Florent Malouda and new signing Eden Hazard, and keeping them at bay could go a long way in helping MLS come out on top.
"Maybe we can pick up their mentality how they played against Barcelona and pack it in," joked Morrow. "No, we're going to come out flying against these guys. These are the best players in our league, we really want to showcase our talent and it's going to be an exciting game to watch."
The two friends will share that experience of playing against an elite European club on Wednesday night, and that is surely to be something the two friends discuss when taking their next pre-game laps around the field.