Feb 28, 2013, 5:00 PM EST
Each day from now until the beginning of Major League Soccer’s 18th season, we will preview one Eastern Conference team and one from the West. First kick is March 2.
No. 1 in the West is San Jose Earthquakes:
Significant additions and subtractions: As you might expect coming off San Jose’ 2012, the roster is relatively unchanged.
Simon Dawkins is the only major loss, but he’s a big one. There isn’t an obvious candidate to replace his eight goals.
Khari Stephenson’s gone (Real Salt Lake) as is Ike Opara (Sporting KC), but among Frank Yallop’s top 14 minutes-getters, 13 return.
The additions have all been spare parts, though some will prove valuable. Mike Fucito will get some early starts. Same for Dan Gargan at right back. Nana Attakora and Ty Harden replace Opara’s depth in defense.
Strengths: Thanks to Chris Wondolowski, goals shouldn’t be a problem, though with Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon out to start the year, San Jose’s attack won’t be the huge edge in March that it will be in October. Still, with modest production from Fucito (who has looked good in preseason), the Earthquakes should be fine.
San Jose also have a lot of tactical versatility, something that enabled last year’s last match heroics. With a few subs, a tweak to Wondolowski and Rafael Baca’s positioning, San Jose can easily shift from a two to three forward look. With Martin Chavez and Shea Salinas wide, they can go to a speed team, or they can stay more balanced by playing only one of their burners. They can play wingers or, with Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour, go narrow through the middle and rely on their fullbacks for width.
All teams can do this, but San Jose is actually good at it. It’s as if Yallop can spend 60 minutes figuring out your weaknesses before using his team’s versatility to exploit you. And other teams just don’t have this much versatility.
Pressure points: Injuries are the obvious one, with questions about Chavez and Beitashour joining a list that includes Lenhart and Gordon, but the real problem is replicating 2012. With the possible exception of goalkeeper Jon Busch, you can argue every player in Yallop’s starting XI had the best year of their career. That’s nearly impossible to replicate.
Let’s just look at the goal totals. Wondolowski had 27. He’s not going to do that again. In fact, he could score anywhere between five and 10 less, particularly when those bulldozing No. 9 strikers are hurt to start the year.
Gordon’s production will be down. Lenhart’s production will be down. And Simon Dawkins scored eight goals last season. San Jose’s losing a lot in attack.
Difference maker: Even if Wondo merely competes for the Golden Boot, he’s going to keep contributing in other ways. Whether playing withdrawn, wide, or as an attacking midfielder, Wondolowski is the focal point of San Jose’s attack, and while he may be better be known for his scoring, his seven assists speak to his importance for others’ production.
Potential breakout player: If Shea Salinas picks up a bulk of Dawkins’ minutes, he’ll put up the best numbers of his career. The speedy Texan has seven assists in limited time last year, but he only had one goal. The assist number may be difficult to improve, but if he gets more than 1155 minutes, he’ll beat his career best for goals (two).
Bottom line: We have them at No. 1, but as we mentioned yesterday, it’s close, particularly with all the injuries. Like the rest of the West, San Jose is less concerned with where they finish in October than being ready for November. That may entail sacrificing points over the next eight months.
Dec 13, 2013, 3:27 PM EST
The Chelsea manager was amused at the links of Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney to London in January.
Dec 13, 2013, 1:55 PM EST
Can Arsenal break through City’s splendid home form?
Dec 13, 2013, 1:16 PM EST
The Dynamo will honor Brian Ching with several unique on-field features.
Dec 13, 2013, 12:57 PM EST
Mullins, Tshuma lead Maryland into a surprising Friday final four in Philadelphia.
Dec 13, 2013, 12:30 PM EST
Where to watch all the action ahead in a blockbuster weekend of PL match ups:
Dec 13, 2013, 12:01 PM EST
History says there are goals a-comin’ in Saturday’s match-up at St. James Park
Dec 13, 2013, 11:30 AM EST
“Average” play of midfielder more troubling during subpar start for Red Devils.
Dec 13, 2013, 11:08 AM EST
Sure there’s science behind the Brazuca, but what good is that without video of the ball shattering dinner plates and other housewares?
Dec 13, 2013, 10:35 AM EST
David Moyes reveals RVP will face yet another spell on the sidelines after aggravating a thigh injury:
Dec 13, 2013, 9:22 AM EST
Gunners aim to go eight-points clear by winning at the Etihad, Wenger plays it cool:
Dec 13, 2013, 8:52 AM EST
NBC News’ Ben Popken gets the lowdown on the new World Cup ball. Good news… a Jabulani, it is not:
Dec 12, 2013, 11:00 PM EST
Unless a player lifts his shirt over his head, you may never see Intel’s contribution to Barcelona’s uniforms.
Where They Stand: Europa League’s 32 knockout round teams (and their potential effect on UEFA’s coefficients)
Dec 12, 2013, 10:05 PM EST
Italy and Ukraine could see big boosts to their coefficients, with each federation placing four teams in Europa’s knockout rounds.
Dec 12, 2013, 9:04 PM EST
How close is PRP to blood doping? Close enough to get the Premier League’s attention.
Dec 12, 2013, 8:02 PM EST
The two-time Defender of the Year rejoins former Crew boss Sigi Schmid in Seattle.
Dec 12, 2013, 7:09 PM EST
The Dash join the Portland Thorns as MLS-backed teams in women’s league.
Dec 12, 2013, 6:17 PM EST
Recovery timeline could leave Portland winger passed over by Costa Rica.
Dec 12, 2013, 5:31 PM EST
Like other notable quality American outfielders (e.g. Clint Dempsey), Cameron is a late-developer who has really evolved.
Dec 12, 2013, 4:38 PM EST
D.C. United upgraded half their defense on Thursday. But what are they getting for the money?
Dec 12, 2013, 3:38 PM EST
We saw this coming. Portland traded up on Thursday to snare the former Zip.
- WATCH: Premier League TV Schedule – Week 16 2
- Manchester United’s Robin van Persie faces lengthy spell out 0
- Behind the Brazuca: NBC’s extensive research hints less “knuckle-ball” in Brazil, NASA agrees 3
- What could Chad Marshall bring to the Seattle Sounder defense? We’ll find out in 2014 3
- NWSL: Houston becomes second MLS franchise to place team in women’s professional league 4
- MLS Re-Entry Draft: As predicted, Portland find a way to get Steve Zakuani 5
- 2014 World Cup Draw: Recapping the event (43)
- 2014 World Cup Draw: USA in Group of Death with Germany, Portugal, Ghana – Schedule, times, venues (34)
- Now that we know the U.S. opponents, which 23 players should Jurgen Klinsmann bring to Brazil? (21)
- U.S. national team discussion: The Alejandro Bedoya conundrum (16)
- Sporting Kansas City crowned 2013 MLS champions after 10 rounds of penalty kicks (16)
- Klinsmann Shouldn't Have Been Re-signed Before WC
- Giovani: "We Were Over Criticized"
- Watch Out Netherlands! Chile-Clan Ain't Nothin' to Mess With!
- Messi on Safe Track to Full Recovery
- The Argentinian Armada, Favorites for Brazil 2014
- Brazil 2014: A Look At South America
- Arena de Amazonia: Host of USA vs CR7
- USA Will Advance in Brazil
- You Can't Beat German Sachlichkeit
- Aurelien Collin: I Think France is Very Very Happy