2011 MLS Preview: Can The Quakes Bring That Magic Back?
Club: San Jose Earthquakes
Head Coach: Frank Yallop
Last Year’s Finish: 12-8-10 6th Place in the West/8th Overall
It was a rocky season with the Earthquakes last year but it did end in a positive way. After being down a goal on aggregate against the Red Bulls, they surprised many by scoring two to lead the second leg. And they thought there would be overtime when Juan Pablo Angel equalized, yet Chris Wondolowski got the winner after it. It was a breakthrough season for Wondolowski as he scored eighteen, while Bobby Convey also had a good comeback season with ten assists. But once again this side is going to have to re-prove itself to the rest of the league again as the roster has been tinkered. Can these two do it again in the 2011 season?
They finally solved their goalkeeper problem as Jon Busch finally got the starting spot from Joe Cannon, the little keeper who always found a way to keep his club in the match or hold on to a lead. So with that being said, can the Quakes have another strong season where they barely get the wild card spot, or can they find a way to make a dent into the playoffs knocking off the Galaxy, Sounders, Real Salt Lake or the Rapids? Frank Yallop didn’t really lose much this season, but he did pick up some good players.
Key Roster Additions: Steven Lenhart was brought in from Columbus Crew. Currently he is injured after going through surgery to repair a slight tear in his right meniscus. But when he is healthy, Lenhart is a hard working forward that will be a terror around the net. He is also good for a last minute tally either for a win or coming back from behind for a draw. Of course, winning in the University of Akron Super Draft sweepstakes by drafting midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong (say that name five times fast) will help shore up the midfield and depth.
Key Roster Losses: Former two time Quakes keeper Joe Cannon has been picked up by expansion side Vancouver Whitecaps. To be honest it’s not much of a loss as Jon Busch successfully won the job away from him and hopefully for Joe he can have some success in Western Canada. Arturo Alvarez was picked up by Real Salt Lake and the pesky midfielder looks like he will be a better fit for the Utah club, but this isn’t a big loss for the Quakes either.
Players to Watch: The top two to really watch out for will be Chris Wondolowski and Bobby Convey. For Convey his bounce back year was big after being away in Europe for so long and those two playoff goals against the Red Bulls showed tons of positives. For Wondolowski his coming out party as a top striker finally showed, but the big fear is that no one wants to see him regress. If he can continue to score goals and gets close to his totals from last year, the Quakes have a good chance to make the top three permanent playoff spots in the West instead of praying for a Wild Card spot like last year.
Also watch out for the return of Ike Opara. Started ten of his first eleven matches on the back line and scored three goals before his season was cut short due to an injury. He is going to be one of the top center backs in this league and he has plenty of upside that will help out the defense including clearing some dangerous balls from in front of Jon Busch
2011 Prediction: Just as was said, if those players can continue what they were doing last year and the supporting cast can give a hand as well, then the Quakes can contend for one of those three permanent spots for the playoffs. Any hint of regression and they could be floundering for a Wild Card spot or even worse, they could miss the playoffs. If the best in the west smell blood in the water, they will punish the Quakes severely. I say the Quakes will make the playoffs.