As the San Jose Earthquakes players exited the training field, adjacent to sparkling new Avaya Stadium, each stopping to grab his neatly arranged change of shoes, one man stopped to soak it all in.
Adam Jahn, the third-year MLS forward and product of Stanford University, was still sweating from a lengthy training session that included a full-field 10 versus 10 scrimmage. A determined look on his face, the 24-year-old glanced at the Quakes new stadium before turning his attention to local reporters. Fresh off a successful 10 days in Arizona in which he scored his first two goals of the preseason, Jahn was not ready to declare the trip to the desert a success.
"Almost," he started, "but we didn't win any."
Jahn was referring to the three matches the Quakes played in Tucson, a 3-2 opening loss to the Houston Dynamo, in which Jahn scored both goals for San Jose, and successive draws against Vancouver and Portland. The 6'3" forward, who courtesy of an offseason workout plan has added a considerable amount of muscle mass to his listed 185 pounds, again glanced at Avaya Stadium and made it clear what was most important to him.
"My goal right now is to get on the field," said Jahn, "then we'll go from there. I'm pushing as hard as I can."
The Earthquakes may appear to have a glut of forwards on the current roster, including new Designated Player Innocent Emeghara and incomer second-year striker Mark Sherrod, but Jahn is confident that he can make it difficult on head coach Dominic Kinnear to leave him out of the Matchday 18. His performances in Tucson, as well as his entire preseason body of work, have certainly gained his coach's attention.
"I thought he had a great trip to Arizona," said Kinnear. "He scored a couple of good goals against Houston. He came in in great shape, which was a big positive for him. Some guys don't, so he is ahead of the group. His energy is fantastic. His work rate and his attitude, for me, have been good. And his play has been real good so far."
Jahn has been the Earthquakes leading scorer so far in the 2015 preseason, with 5 goals and a pair of assists in seven appearances, and he credits the busy schedule for helping him quickly get up to game speed.
"It's been very good," said Jahn "We are very focused on playing games. We have 11 games this preseason, so gaining fitness through playing versus just fitness drills is good because it gets you ready for the season."
Up next for Jahn and the Earthquakes is a friendly match at the club's USL affiliate, the Sacramento Republic FC, Saturday afternoon in the state's capital. The forward is no stranger to the Republic having spent the better part of 2014 on loan with the club. He is appreciative of the opportunity that Sacramento head coach Preki gave him to earn meaningful minutes and improve his overall play.
"It really helped a lot," said Jahn. "Sacramento is a great team -- they won the championship last year -- so it wasn't like you are going to a very low league. It was good quality of play, good coaching, a good field, and it really helped me a lot."
Jahn made 22 appearances for the USL champions in 2014, scoring seven goals in 1493 minutes. He earned a league winner's medal for his achievements -- an award he admits is "collecting dust" somewhere at home -- but more importantly built up his confidence with a team that demanded it. The experience was magnitudes more valuable than the four games he appeared in for the Earthquakes first team in 2014.
"It helped greatly," said Jahn. "I got 20 games in versus zero if I had stayed in San Jose, so it is great that we have that affiliation and that the Earthquakes can send some of the younger guys to get minutes."
Jahn played the most minutes for Sacramento by far of anyone on the Earthquakes roster. He was joined on the Republic at various times during the 2014 USL season by Quakes teammates JJ Koval, Mike Fucito, and Tommy Thompson. Preki employed Jahn as a target forward last season, and Kinnear says the first team hopeful should expect to play the same role with the 2015 Earthquakes.
"He's a target forward, we all know that," said Kinnear. "We're not going to ask him to do anything else besides, physically, that he can do. In the games in Arizona, we played him up high and told him, ‘Work the width of the playing area. Don't pull yourself out of that position because you'll get to an area where you possibly more touches then you should.' He seemed to do that pretty well, made a couple of runs behind the defense and got onto the ends of some good chances.
"You want your forwards in and around the goal. If that guy's is not doing it, it's going to create a gap in there. He played very well for us, and as well as the goals, his hold-up play overall was good."
Kinnear also has target forward Steven Lenhart on the roster, but he of the blonde-haired bedlam is still working himself back into shape following a season ending foot injury last fall and a troublesome knee that has caused him pain for many seasons. Sherrod, who Kinnear brought with him from Houston, via a trade with Orlando City SC, presents another option as a physical forward, but he is also on the mend and has yet to appear in a preseason match. If Kinnear elects to play with a target forward when the season starts in March, Jahn is number one on the list.
"We still have three weeks to go," said Kinnear, "and a lot can happen between then and now. We have a handful of guys that are not participating because of injury."
That doesn't matter to Jahn, who knows that only he can control his own health and preparedness, and he has circled the Earthquakes' MLS regular season opener at FC Dallas on March 7 with the goal of getting on the field for San Jose. But there is still work to be done this preseason to earn Kinnear's trust, and he knows he'll be back at it the next day, and the next, in pursuit of that effort.
He paused for a moment and again stole a glance toward the Earthquakes new 18,000 stadium just off to his left. With the midday sunshine beating down on him and another tough training session in the books, Jahn declared that he was feeling "really good," and that the entire team was coming together.
"We've been training really hard, and some legs are heavy, but our fitness is coming along really well," said Jahn. "We'll be firing on all cylinders when the season starts in March."