Ever since San Jose signed Geovanni as their first designated player, Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop has insisted he only wanted to start the Brazilian playmaker when he was in a position to “look good.”
When the final whistle sounded Sunday, Geovanni seemed downright gorgeous to San Jose fans.
Inserted into the lineup by Yallop as a second forward underneath Cornell Glen, Geovanni needed just six minutes to notch his first MLS assist – a low cross that zeroed precisely in on Khari Stephenson, who slotted home his first regular-season MLS goal. In the 64th minute, the Premier League veteran steamed onto a ball left sitting 14 yards from goal and blistered a shot that whizzed past Pat Onstad practically before Houston’s goalkeeper could react.
That DP salary? Worth every penny.
“Anytime you have an influence in the game, it’s fantastic,” said Yallop, who moved eight-goal-scorer Chris Wondolowski to the left wing in order to get Geovanni in the center of the field. “He’s terrific, and he really showed it. That’s what quality players do.”
By delivering the new Quakes’ first victory in Houston against the franchise’s earlier incarnation, Geovanni helped San Jose pull five points clear of their nearest pursuers in the MLS playoff race. The Quakes are tied with Seattle for seventh place overall at 32 points, and have at least one game in hand on every other team in the top 10.
“I liked both (the goal and the assist), but what I liked most of all was that we won,” Geovanni said through a translator. “That’s one of the goals that I have, to be able to help the team get to the playoffs.”
Geovanni had played only 53 total minutes in his first two MLS appearances, but lasted until the 85th minute Sunday, coming off only after Sam Cronin’s straight red card prompted a need for Brad Ring. The 30-year-old said he still had gas in the tank despite the heat and humidity of a summer night in Houston.
“I’ve felt good in training, and felt really good today,” Geovanni said. “It feels very comfortable. I’m getting used to this different type of soccer.”
The Quakes are getting used to his style of play as well. When Geovanni surged past Geoff Cameron en route to creating enough space on the right wing to deliver his pinpoint pass, Stephenson reacted in concert, filling the vacuum and providing the perfect target. Stephenson’s shot to the far half of the net from 10 yards out left Onstad no opportunity for heroics.
“I saw Cornell wasn’t in the box, and someone needed to make that run,” said Stephenson, whose only earlier MLS score came for Kansas City during the 2004 playoffs against the original Quakes. “It was a perfect pass, right in my stride, one of the easiest goals of my career.”
Yallop couldn’t say the same about the victory, since the Quakes allowed a tying goal mere seconds before the half to Brad Davis via an unchallenged header. The Dynamo, desperate for a win to keep their flagging playoff hopes alive, held the majority of possession all night, but a nice series of passes along the left wing between Cronin, Chris Wondolowski and Brandon McDonald eventually delivered the ball to the feet of Glen, who either laid the ball off or was dispossessed by Mike Chabala, depending on your point of view.
Either way, Geovanni made sure all that work didn’t go to waste.
“He’s a good player, he has the DP title, but I don’t think we go ‘Well, he’s the DP, let’s have him do everything,’” Stephenson said. “He’s out there, working his ass off and everyone respects that.”
As for Geovanni, he was already looking forward to facing FC Dallas on Saturday – and continuing to make an impact.
“I’m not going to talk too much, but I’m going to show it on the field,” Geovanni said. “I’m here to help these guys and hopefully I’ll keep playing like this.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @sjquakes