>By Evan Ream, with help from the Intern
Last Year: 13-10-7 46 points, 6th in West, 8th overall. Beat New York 3-2 on aggregate in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, lost to Colorado 1-0 in the Eastern Conference Final.
Key Losses: Geovanni, Joe Cannon, Arturo Alvarez
Key Additions: Steven Lenhart, Anthony Ampaipitakwong
Projected Starting XI: San Jose returns a good amount of starters from last year’s surprise playoff run with a few key exceptions. Up top, Ryan Johnson who disappointed last year with just one goal, will look to recapture his 2009 form where he scored 11 goals on a mediocre team. Steven Lenhart, just acquired from the Columbus crew, should partner him. This tandem should be a bruising and athletic one that will occupy defenders and open up for space for their top two offensive threats, Bobby Convey and Chris Wondolowski. Bobby Convey was fifth in the league last year in assists with ten, and as we all know, Wondolowski won the Golden Boot with 18 goals, with quite a bit coming from this same right midfield position. Centrally, Andre Luiz was one of the best midfielders in 2009, but was injured most of last year and did not see much time. Sam Cronin was acquired midway through last year and performed admirably. Their backline should be much improved from last year assuming they can get a full year out of Ike Opara. Opara was the rookie sensation (and the teams second leading goal scorer) last year before suffering a season ending foot injury. If Opara was healthy all of last year, we might have been talking about him instead of Tim Ream as the next USA center back. Opara should team with Jason Hernandez, one of the most underrated players in MLS. Team captain Ramiro Corrales looks to be the default starter at left back, though Bobby Convey can provide cover (and apparently a goalscoring threat) if needed. Tim Ward should take the other outside back spot. Jon Busch looks to be the starter in goal again.
Ryan Johnson Steven Lenhart
Bobby Convey Andre Luiz Sam Cronin Chris Wondolowski
Ramiro Corrales Jason Hernandez Ike Opara Tim Ward
Prognosis: I think this team will be exactly as good as they were last year. I feel like they didn’t really do anything in the offseason to get better or worse. They should be better chemistry-wise after their unexpected playoff run, but worse in the fact that teams will ACTUALLY know to guard Chris Wondolowski next year. The majority of Wondo’s goals came on back post runs that weren’t picked up last year. This can be explained by two simple reasons. First, no one thought that Wondo was good or would do anything remotely good last year and he took advantage of the situation. Second, there are many terrible left backs in MLS. Wondo scored hat tricks against Toronto FC and Chivas USA last year, not only two of the worst teams, but teams with unsettled left back positions. Against Toronto, he tore up Raivis Hscanovics, a player cut by Toronto FC a few weeks ago. Against Chivas USA, he schooled Ante Jazic who A) was coming off an injury and B) hasn’t been good in two years. My point to all of this is that the team’s entire offense came from Wondolowski and he is not going to be as good this year. I am going to call it now and say that Wondo will not score 10 goals next year. In fact, I bet my brother (a giant San Jose fan) that Chad Barrett will score more goals than Chris Wondolowski will. Well Matt, you have it in writing. San Jose will need to find another offensive threat to succeed this year and I’m guessing that Ryan Johnson will bounce back and Stephen Lenhart will be decent for them. In all San Jose should hover right around that eighth playoff seed, likely getting one of the wild card spots.
The Intern’s Take: As previously mentioned, this team did not make too many moves this offseason; the most noticeable change is no more Arturo Alvarez and San Jose choosing not to renew Geovanni’s contract. Neither of these moves should hurt the Earthquakes that much this season and they should be able to make the playoffs again this year. San Jose fans should be excited for the return of Ike Opara, who will likely take over for Brandon McDonald in the back and will provide much more of a scoring threat, adding more dimension to the San Jose attack, which is something they desperately need. The Earthquake midfield is filled with talent, however, and should be able to provide lots of support to the players up top. Bobby Convey, last season’s Comeback Player of the Year, will be looking to repeat the tremendous season he had and should provide plenty of assists from the midfield. Wondolowski scored over half of the team’s goals last season and the rest of the team will need to start scoring if the Quakes hope to make another playoff run. Forwards Johnson, Glen, and Geovanni only scored one goal each last year and Steven Lenhart has been brought in to strengthen the Quakes up top, which I think he will do. Lenhart scored six goals last year, an amount which would have been second highest with San Jose. With the service Bobby Convey can provide, I think Lenhart will be able to at least get six goals again which will relieve some of the scoring pressure off of Wondolowski and give the Quake’s attack more threats.