Monday, February 7, 2011
MLS Quick Look: San Jose Earthquakes
By Scott French
The San Jose Earthquakes arrived Sunday for a week of training at Oxnard College, and they've got scrimmages planned against Chivas USA, the Galaxy and the Ventura County Fusion.
The Quakes meet Chivas on Monday afternoon at Home Depot Center Field 4, west of the main stadium. They'll face the Galaxy on Thursday at the HDC track and field stadium and take on the Premier Development League's Fusion on Friday at Oxnard College.
Here's a quick look at the Earthquakes:
WHO ARE THEY?
The Galaxy's former No. 1 rival, before Chivas USA arrived and MLS's original Clash/Quakes hightailed it to Houston after the 2005 season. This model returned to MLS in 2008, with Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff (encouraged by super soccer fan/A's GM Billy Beane) putting up the money, former star center back John Doyle as GM and the return of coach Frank Yallop, who guided the previous Quakes to MLS titles in 2001 and 2003. They reached the playoffs last year, knocking off Eastern Conference champ New York to make it to the MLS Cup semifinals.
THE MAN IN CHARGE
Yallop is no stranger to these parts. The English-born Canadian former defender was the Galaxy's head coach the last part of 2006 and during that wasted 2007 campaign, unfairly jettisoned afterward with the Quakes asking for his hand.
Yallop, who's one of the really good guys in MLS, spent 13 seasons with Ipswich Town, played in Tampa Bay in the first three MLS seasons, then worked for the Mutiny and then at D.C. United before taking over in San Jose in 2001. After three seasons and two MLS Cup titles, he became Canada's national team coach, a post he left for the Galaxy job after failing to qualify for the 2006 World Cup.
THE STAR PLAYER
The closest thing San Jose has to a star is forward/midfielder Chris Wondolowski, who burst into everyone's consciousness last year (his sixth in MLS) with 18 goals, 10 of them in the final eight games, to swipe the Golden Boot from L.A.'s Edson Buddle on the final day of the season.
It won Wondolowski a spot among the three MVP finalists and a call-up to the U.S. national team, and his role with the Quakes -- and whether he can come close to having the kind of impact he made in 2010 -- are two of the club's primary concerns. He can play up top or attack from the wing, and maybe in the middle behind the forwards, and Yallop is looking for a combination that suits his goalscorer and the team.
There are a few others with a little star power: winger Bobby Convey, a 2006 World Cup selection who was awesome last year after struggling for three years following microfracture surgery. Maybe Ike Opara, the second-year defender who has the tools to become one of the premier center backs in the league. And how about Jon Busch, who brings the attitude better than maybe any other goalkeeper in MLS.
Attacking midfielder Khari Stephenson arrived on a midseason loan from Norway's Aalesunds FK last summer and immediately injected life into the Quakes -- his contribution was among the biggest as San Jose drove toward the postseason.
The Earthquakes declined the option on his contract, and he went through the re-entry phase (and is, for MLS's purposes, a free agent), but they'd like to keep him, as long as the economics work. Negotiations on a transfer from Aalesunds have been alternately encouraging and dismaying. Stephenson, meantime, sits home in Jamaica watching things play out.
There's Yallop's time with the Galaxy, and assistant coach Ian Russell's, too, as a reserve forward in 2007. Forward Steven Lenhart, acquired from Columbus, played at Esperanza High School in Anaheim and NAIA powerhouse Azusa Pacific. Towering defender Bobby Burling, who calls El Segundo home, starred at Loyola Marymount, was drafted by the Galaxy and played for Chivas USA before a 2009 trade to San Jose. Center back Brandon McDonald played a season (2008) for the Galaxy, and partner Jason Hernandez spent two (2006-07) with Chivas USA.
Brazilian midfielder Andre Luiz, who turned 36 in November, is nearing the end of rehab after his season-ending knee injury last June forced the Quakes into a series of moves (such as bringing in Stephenson) that led down a path to the playoffs. He's almost ready to begin working with a ball, is still a few weeks from joining training and likely won't be available the first month of the season.
Forward/midfielder Scott Sealy is rehabbing from offseason leg surgery and at least a couple of weeks away from joining training. Midfielder Sam Cronincame into camp with a slight quadriceps injury but declared himself ready. Opara, whose rookie season was cut short last July by a broken foot, hopes to join camp in Oxnard after sitting out the first week with a hip injury.
The Quakes have five trialists in camp, according to the Center Line Soccer Web site, but haven't identified them. One, says CLS, is former U.S. U-17 forward Ellis McLoughlin, now 20, who has played for Hertha Berlin's reserve team and was on trial last year with the Seattle Sounders. … Former Galaxy goalkeeper Joe Cannon went to Vancouver in the expansion draft, ending his back-and-forth battle with Busch for a starting spot. The No. 2 is David Bingham, a Quakes supporter since childhood who arrived in a lottery from the University of California after signing a Generation Adidas contract after last month's draft. … Two more prominent newcomers: USL vet Tony Donatelli, a wing-attacker from the Montreal Impact, and midfielder Anthony Ampaipitakwong, one of the pivotal figures for Akron's NCAA title-winners. Ampai, as he's called, slipped to 33rd overall in the draft because there are concerns about how he'll handle the physical nature of MLS and questions about which position, if any, he fits into in the pro game. … Gone are Brazilian attackers Geovanni, the club's first Designated Player, and Eduardo. Options on their contracts were declined.