Quakes' Baca looks to make starting spot his own

September 10, 2011, 1:24 am
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Nick Rosano

SANTA CLARA, Calif. Rafael Baca has been more than patient waiting for his turn with the Earthquakes. After training with the team since mid-February, the former Loyola Marymount midfielder had to wait until July 8 to sign with the team. Even then, he had to wait over another month to get a chance to play in his preferred position, first being utilized as a winger in a series of substitute appearances interspersed with one start in his teams 4-0 loss to Real Salt Lake. Recently, though, head coach Frank Yallop has turned to the versatile Mexican-born midfielder as the teams lineup suffered through a spate of injuries and suspensions, and the coach likes what he sees. He has great energy, I think hes using the ball well, been an excellent teammates, I think hes worked very hard for the team, hes been good, Yallop said of Bacas contributions to the team. I think him and Ramiro Corrales, the two of them struck up a nice partnership real quickly and played some good stuff. Since some shaky opening minutes in his first start centrally, alongside Corrales in the Earthquakes 2-0 loss to Los Angeles on Aug. 20, Baca has stepped up alongside the veteran Corrales nominally a left back to help the team improve its possession. For Baca the switch to a more central position is a welcome one. I think its better, I think its a position that I like playing more, said Baca, of the switch. I feel more comfortable there, I like to be on the ball more, so I think that position you have to be more active and you get more of ball, more touches on the ball. While Baca has been comfortable playing alongside Corrales, the injury and suspension situation has necessitated yet another change in the center of the park. While Baca will remain in the center, a hamstring injury to Justin Morrow and the suspension of Bobby Convey for yellow card accumulation requires Yallop to move Corrales back to his left back position. The Earthquakes have a number of options to fill the spot left by Corrales, but with Khari Stephenson likely to continue playing up front and Brad Ring recovering from a shoulder injury, Sam Cronin will likely be the player Yallop turns to. Despite the fact that Bacas path to a starting spot has been largely influenced by injuries, Yallop insists that Baca has earned the right to continue playing in the first team thanks to his positive performances against Los Angeles and in the teams 1-1 draw with Toronto FC. Right now were trying to win every game we can, so you dont tend to just throw guys in, Yallop said, indicating he was not simply just testing out Baca and Morrow, who has also enjoyed a run as a starter. Theyve been given their chance and I think theyve done fantastic, both of them. However, Baca is not just content with playing to fill in and keep starting for the rest of 2011, he is keen continue improving so as to make the starting spot his own in 2012. Yeah, I think besides locking it down, I think theres always room to improve, little things that you have to work on as a rookie, Baca said of his desire to make the position his own, and credited his teammates with helping him. I think with the type of player that we have, I get a lot of help from them, a lot of advice, so I think its good. In the teams upcoming showdown with the Chicago, where any result other than a win would likely extinguish the teams already extremely slim playoff hopes, Baca knows the team must be more careful with its possession, and believes he can help. I think just in the final third of the field, make sure we connect those passes. I think thats something weve been lacking the last few games, said Baca, when asked about what the team can do to be more incisive. In the last third we make the wrong pass or make the wrong decision. Looking at his individual game, Baca acknowledged the need to rely more on his attacking instincts, saying, I think I need to just try to go forward more, try to be more offensive, create more attack. Thats one of those things that me as a player has to improve and hopefully I can do it on Saturday against Chicago.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer musings, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano

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