Despite 40 years of rich history, including 2 MLS Cups, 2 Supporters Shields, and some time in the old NASL, the Quakes have yet to find a place that they can call home. After bouncing around college stadiums for years, San Jose will finally be opening beautiful Avaya Stadium this season. The stadium is located by the airport and just minutes away from downtown, and will provide a whole new buzz for soccer in the Bay Area. The stadium is expandable, but will be able to hold 18,000 soccer fans in it’s first year.
The Quakes were among the busiest teams in MLS this off season. After a disastrous 2014 season, huge changes were expected to be seen. Under new manager Dominic Kinnear, it seems that the Quakes have made some moves that will certainly strengthen their roster for 2015.
* Renato was signed to a deal that was reportedely worth 3 years. His solid preseason earned him a spot on the team, which included a goal and some solid defending.
Players To Watch
Wondolowski is the face of the Earthquakes franchise. After being relocated to Houston, and then reinstated into MLS as a new expansion team, San Jose really struggled in the first couple years of it’s new existence. Wondo came back home to San Jose in a trade with Houston, and since then, he has completely torn up MLS in scoring. He has not only been the league leader in scoring since 2010, but also the most consistent scorer. With two golden boots, an MVP season, and a Supporters Shield on his resume in San Jose, he has established himself as one of the elite goal scorers in MLS.
Wondo scored 14 goals in just 26 appearances, despite the abysmal season that the Quakes were having, and despite that he was spending significant time with the USMNT in the World Cup and in the warm up games. Wondolowski’s movement is what makes him so lethal as a striker. He doesn’t have eye opening speed, he doesn’t have world class finesse, and he won’t make any jaw dropping moves, but it is almost guaranteed that he will be among the league leaders in scorers this season. His movement is what makes him so deadly as a striker – it is always difficult to keep track of him.
All aboard the Tommy Thompson hype train? I’d certainly hop on as soon as possible. Thompson is only 19 years old, and will be spending some time with the US U-20 YNT at the U-20 World Cup in New Zealand this summer. To give you a taste of why there is so much hype around this one kid, take a look at this gif:
As you can see, everything that I said Chris Wondolowski didn’t have is present in Thompson at the age of 19. He’s got speed, he’s got finesse, he’s got a low center of gravity, and he’ll make your jaw drop every time he’s on the pitch. The main thing Thompson is missing at this stage in his career is his ability to finish. Of course, he is only 19 years old, so there is no need to panic, but it will certainly be one of the more interesting story lines to follow. How will Dominic Kinnear develop Tommy Thompson into the world class player he has the potential to become?
Matias Perez Garcia and Innocent Emeghara
The Earthquakes signed Perez Garcia late last summer and Emeghara earlier this offseason. Perez Garcia and Emeghara are respectively the club’s 3rd and 4th designated players in history.
Perez Garcia, the 30 year old Argentine midfielder, is known most for his technical and playmaking ability. He is quick, agile, and most importantly for the Quakes, creative with the ball. In 2013 and 2014, the Quakes midfield had virtually no creativity. The offense was centered around playing the long ball into the box and praying that it somehow bounces around and ends up in the back of the net. Perez Garcia has already impressed Quakes fans, by scoring in his debut against the LA Galaxy last season, but was sidelined with a few minor injuries as the season wrapped up. Of course, this will be the first full season for Perez Garcia in MLS, and he could very well end up as one of the top midfielders in MLS at the end of the season. The main key for him is to stay healthy, which has been a bit of a problem in his career. If Perez Garcia can stay in the lineup, he can make a huge impact on the Quakes chances this year, as we’ve seen this preseason.
Emeghara is another one of those signings where you’ll have to admit that you’ve never heard of the player before. The Swiss international is no David Villa, or Frank Lampard, or Steven Gerrard, but he does have the potential to be just as productive as those players. Emeghara has experience playing in Serie A, the Swiss leagues, and Ligue 1. The main component of his game is his technical ability and his speed. Up top, he will bring a dynamic that Quakes fans have probably not seen in a while on their team. The element of speed will take a lot of focus off of Wondolowski, allowing him to slot into the right places without being noticed. If Emeghara can pull off a 10 goal season, it’d be a great signing for the Quakes.
Here’s what I think the depth chart will look like for the upcoming year. I think Khari Stephenson is a very versatile depth player, and he can play a variety of positions. I just stuck him on the back line in this case.
As for the lineups the Quakes will use – I think they will stick to the diamond for the most part, but also a variation of the 4-2-3-1 at times. For example, against a more dangerous offensive team like FC Dallas this weekend, I can see the Quakes using the 4-2-3-1 to make sure their back line is secure, especially with first year starting goalkeeper David Bingham.
With the additions of Leandro Barrera, Marvell Wynne, Sanna Nyassi, and Innocent Emeghara, the Quakes will have much more pace this year than they have had in years past. The element of speed will be a huge factor in the Quakes refined game under Dominic Kinnear, and has already proven to be relatively successful this preseason. The Quakes only suffered one 3-2 loss against Houston this preseason, and utilized formations similar to the ones shown above.
The Quakes will surprise a lot of people this year. Even though they finished second to last in the league last year, they will be in the contention for a playoff spot. The excitement of the new stadium will propel the Quakes to a relatively successful season, but whether or not they make the playoffs is still a bit of a toss up.
I think we will all have a better idea of where the Quakes will be finishing at the end of the year around three weeks into the season.
(image courtesy of San Jose Earthquakes)