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PREVIEW: Quakes' shakeup signals new era
by Ridge Mahoney, March 5th, 2014 9:26PM
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TAGS:  mls, san jose earthquakes


[MLS 2014: Western Conference] Rocked by a midseason coaching change, San Jose shook up the roster as well once a strong finish left it just short of a playoff spot.

Defenders Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour departed, as did midfielder Rafael Baca, one of three MLS players dispatched to Mexico by various means during the offseason. Marvin Chavez, who like Baca faded last season after a string of strong performances during the Quakes' run to the Supporters’ Shield in 2012, is also gone.

2013 San Jose Earthquakes
Record: 14-11-9
Finish: 6th in Western Conf.
Playoffs: did not qualify.

The retirement of Ramiro Corrales, the last original MLS player when the league launched in 1996, personified the dawn of a new era under Mark Watson. The former assistant coach took over from Frank Yallop, who had led the team since MLS revived it in 2008.

Yallop’s mantra during his reign was to build from within the league, and Watson has plucked a few players from other MLS rosters. Veteran attacker Atiba Harris arrived in a trade with Colorado; defenders Shaun Francis and Brandon Barklage were claimed and signed via the Re-Entry Draft. Two foreign signings will directly address the major departures. Andreas Goerlitz, a former Bayern Munich player, can take over for Beitashour at right back. French midfielder Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi is a replacement for Baca.

Former Stanford midfielder J.J. Koval, taken no. 9 overall in the SuperDraft, has the tools to develop into a capable contributor. The core of the team is much the same as it was when it topped the standings in 2012 and Chris Wondolowski scored 27 goals to tie Roy Lassiter’s MLS record for goals in a season.

Western Conference Preview:
Chivas USA | Colorado | FC Dallas
LA Galaxy | Portland | Real Salt Lake

WHY BE OPTIMISTIC? The team responded to Watson, posting an 11-5-1 record with him in charge, and there’s a strong wave of momentum building with the team poised to celebrate its 40th anniversary this year and move into a new facility in 2015. Though Wondolowski slipped alarmingly from his 27-goal season to net only 11 last year, he’s still a superb finisher and one of the league’s best at peeling away from markers at the critical moment.

Injuries and player complacency prompted last year’s slow start and the eventual departure of Yallop, who didn’t always see eye-to-eye with technical director John Doyle during their five-and-half-year association, and though the dissolution of their partnership came somewhat out of the blue there had been disagreements in the past. The players know Watson well from his long stint as an assistant coach and he’s very familiar with their strengths and weaknesses as well as their personalities.

WHY BE PESSIMISTIC? The Western Conference top dogs don’t look any weaker. Also-rans Vancouver, FC Dallas and Chivas USA have changed coaches and the latter is in the throes of a radical transformation.

It’s not possible to adequately replace centerbacks Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez while they are with their national teams and there’s an inevitable decompression period after they return from the World Cup. As the team showed last year, it’s extremely difficult to make up sufficient ground in a competitive conference.

PROJECTED FINISH: 5th-7th place. Despite its sporadic playoff success, the Quakes are always a hard team to play against, and if Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon can approximate their 2012 seasons when the combined for 23 goals, Watson’s drive may be enough for a postseason slot.

18-Jon Busch (37)/USA (5th season)

77-Andreas Goerlitz (32)/Germany (FC Ingolstadt)
5-Victor Bernardez (31)/Honduras (3rd season)
44-Clarence Goodson (31)/USA (2nd season)
3-Jordan Stewart (32)/England (2nd season)

6-*Shea Salinas (27)/USA (3rd season)
4-Sam Cronin (27)/USA (5th season)
80-Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi (28)/France (Ajaccio)
7-Cordell Cato (21)/Trin. & Tobago (2nd season)

8-Chris Wondolowski (31)/USA (6th season)
24-Steven Lenhart (27)/USA (4th season)

First off the bench:
26-Brandon Barklage (27)/USA (New York Red Bulls)
16-Alan Gordon (32)/USA (4th season)
23-Atiba Harris (29)/St. Kitts & Nevis (Colorado Rapids)
14-Adam Jahn (23)/USA (2nd season)
San Jose Earthquakes: complete roster.

returning players in bold.
*second stint with club.

March 11: Toluca (CCL), 10 pm ET
March 15:
Real Salt Lake, 10:30 pm ET
March 19:
at Toluca (CCL), 8 pm ET
March 22:
at Sporting KC, 8:30 pm ET
March 29:
New England, 10:30 pm ET
San Jose Earthquakes: complete schedule.

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