San Jose Earthquakes Out To Set The Clocks Back


Even playing down a man, the Earthquakes not just survived but thrived against Seattle, winning 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

Headed into the 2012 season the San Jose Earthquakes were predicted by many to be a tough team to play against, but one that would ultimately fall short of making the playoffs. In March of that year, San Jose took I-5 up to the heavily favored Seattle Sounders. It was a battle but the Earthquakes got penalty kick and made it stand, prevailing 1-0.

That win helped propel San Jose’s magical season in which they were very nearly unconquerable going on to win the Supporter’s Shield before losing to LA in the playoffs.

It’s hard not to feel it’s deja vu all over again. Last Saturday, the situation was much like March 2012:  San Jose entered Seattle and David once again beat Goliath. This time  in even more extraordinary fashion: conceding a goal within the 30 seconds, a penalty kick and playing (and scoring) down a man.

Now, three years later,  the pieces are all there for another incredible–and wholly unexpected–run:

The Stadium: After years at playing at Santa Clara University, the Earthquakes will not finally have a stadium to call its very own with the opening of Avaya Stadium this Sunday. It is going to be a momentous day for the team and it’s fans. Tickets for the event are  sold out and have been for months.

Feb 28, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; A general view of fans watching the second half of the preseason game between the San Jose Earthquakes and the Los Angeles Galaxy at Avaya Stadium. The Earthquakes won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

The team could have hardly picked a better, or more appropriate opponent, in the Chicago Fire, for two reasons:

  • Current Fire coach, Frank Yallop of course, who built and guided the 2012 squad and
  • Chicago is, to put it politely, off to a rough start

Recent history also bodes well when you factor in that the last time these teams met,  the Earthquakes decimated the Fire 5-1.

The Coach: It’s the return of the native. Dom Kinnear was born and raised in the Bay Area and coached the Earthquakes to dominance before the team decamped off to Houston.

After wandering through the wild, the Earthquakes hope it’s the return of Kinnear that will propel the team forward. That was the thinking when the team acquired him from Houston at the end of last season for an undisclosed sum of assets.

The last time Kinnear was on the sidelines as the San Jose coach, he had guided the Quakes to the 2005 Supporter’s Shield.  He knows that his presence alone won’t push the Quakes up the table, but in a recent interview he revealed that he expects the team to return to the playoffs this year.

“Experience doesn’t mean you’re automatically guaranteed to win,” Kinnear said recently to MLS. “And I don’t think

Feb 28, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear yells from the sidelines during the second half of the preseason game against the Los Angeles Galaxy at Avaya Stadium. The Earthquakes won 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

that I’m going to walk onto the field and think it’s 2005 again. All those players are gone. I look around here, and these people have waited a long time for this stadium. So now you want to put a team in there that can entertain them and help them be successful.”

“My expectations? I want to make the playoffs.”

The Veterans: Yes, the cliche of every non-NCAA Men’s Basketball team is that it takes veteran leadership for a team to win. Seven of the regulars pulling minutes so far are 30 or over.

What’s more, the Seattle match was a watershed moment for Quakes because it was the first time in club history that the Earthquakes started three Designated Players (Chris Wondolowski, Matías Pérez García, and Innocent Emeghara).

The three DPs combined for all three of the team’s goals.

Lost amid the veterans has been homegrown phenom Tommy Thompson. Thompson featured regularly last year for Sacramento before making eight appearances for the club late last season.

Kinnear is known for his aversion to playing youngsters but there’s more at play here. Frankly that’s Thompson’s commitment to play in the 2015 Under-20 World Cup. The tournament, held in New Zealand, won’t begin until late May, but Kinnear has reservations about giving minutes consistent minutes to a fringe  player who will be gone for a long period of time.

“First and foremost coming here I want to try and win games. If I feel that Tommy starting is going to help us win a game, that’s what I’m going to try and do,” Kinnear said in comments prior to the beginning of the season.

“To say he’s going to be a regular starter and then he’s going to miss six weeks, those things don’t quantify for me. So, we’re going to take him week by week, practice by practice. He’ll play minutes this year. How about that? Whether it be starting or coming off the  bench.”

With the pieces coming together, buoyed by a that boost teams get upon opening a new stadium, the Quakes could be the trendy buy-low candidate for a breakthrough season.

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