Q&A with MLSsoccer.com

(March 30, 2011) - WPFC alumnus Joey Gjertsen’s biggest claim to fame might be his unusual last name to those outside the San Jose Earthquakes’ fan base. But to the Quakes, Gjertsen is an invaluable, if unheralded, piece of the puzzle. Coach Frank Yallop consistently praised the 28-year-old in preseason and has had him start both of the Quakes’ matches on the right wing to open 2011. That belief paid off with an assist in the team’s 2-0 victory against FC Dallas from Gjertsen, who took time to field questions from MLSsoccer.com.

MLSsoccer.com: You started out strong last year after joining the Quakes, but is this the best you’ve played since coming here?

Joey Gjertsen: Yeah, probably. Last year was my sixth year playing [professionally], but I felt like a rookie. This year, I’m definitely more comfortable. Just playing with the guys has done it.

MLSsoccer.com: What have you learned from last year that you can apply this year?

Gjertsen: Off the field, I’ve never had a problem with injuries before. Last year, they hit me a couple of times and I missed a good chunk of the season. So off the field, I know it’s going to take more work to stay healthy, especially with a 34-game season. You see guys like Wondo [Chris Wondolowski] and how prepared he is with doing everything he does, and I know that’s what it takes.

MLSsoccer.com: You had a quad strain early and then tried to play through a knee problem (before undergoing surgery in September to fix a slight meniscus tear). It seemed like that sapped your strength a little bit.

Gjertsen: I didn’t think anything of [the knee injury]. I thought it was something that’s going to go away. I never really looked into it other than icing and stuff. One day, I stayed after to do some fitness. I was doing some single-leg jumping and I could barely push off on my right leg, which is obviously a similar motion to running. It was worth getting a look at, so we went and got the MRI and it showed the tear. I was kind of relieved it was there because at first, I didn’t think anything was wrong with it. I thought it was a small pain that will go away. But it feels good now.

MLSsoccer.com: 100 percent at this point?

Gjertsen: 100 percent, for sure.

MLSsoccer.com: Regarding your assist, are you always looking for Wondo when you cross the ball or are you just putting it in a dangerous area?

Gjertsen: Obviously, you’re always looking for him, but as you’ve seen, if you put it anywhere near him, he puts it in the back of the net. It’s not one of those things where you’re going through the play thinking, ‘Alright, where’s Wondo at? I gotta find him.’ He does that on his own because you pick your head up and he’s always there. He’s good at finding those spaces and those pockets. You see him all the time.

WATCH: Gjertsen sets up Wondolowski’s goal

MLSsoccer.com: How has your job changed on the right wing with the formation change from 4-4-2 to 4-3-3?

Gjertsen: I think it frees me up a little bit to go forward more. Me and Bobby [Convey, who plays on the left wing] have had a lot of dangerous runs up the middle, where last year we were closer to the sideline most of the time. You haven’t seen that in our two games yet, but [when it’s] free-flowing in practice, it’s happening all the time. With [right back Chris] Leitch’s communication behind me, it makes my job easier. The more he talks, the more free I am.

MLSsoccer.com: You might be the epitome of this team, in that you’re not known nationally and don’t yet get a ton of respect. Do you think that’s accurate?

Gjertsen: I think so, and I’m perfectly OK with that. Obviously, I’d like to assert myself more with goals and assists, and then maybe the recognition would come. But as it is now, with me being less well-known and even the Earthquakes being more quiet, I’m perfectly OK with that.

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes