After 2011 struggles, Quakes acing chemistry this year

San Jose Earthquakes are hyped

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This week’s “chicken-or-egg” question comes courtesy of the San Jose Earthquakes: Have the Quakes put together their 4-1-0 start to this season because of their great chemistry? Or is the chemistry a byproduct of the franchise’s best-ever five-match opening run?

One thing’s certain: The Quakes are a happy bunch as they prepare to take on the New York Red Bulls on Saturday (7 pm ET, watch LIVE online) in a cross-coast battle of each conference’s second-place team.

“I think that chemistry breeds winning, but it’s not, obviously, the one and only reason why you win,” San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch told MLSsoccer.com before training Friday. “We’ve got quality players here and we’ve got a very deep roster this year, so that adds a lot to [the success]. But they kind of go hand-in-hand. When you have good chemistry, you’re probably going to win more; when you win more, it breeds even more chemistry.”

Last season, there were few San Jose players talking up the roster’s chemistry; this year, the Quakes are mentioning it spontaneously when asked about their turnaround from an 8-12-14 record in 2011.

“I think the chemistry is something that’s a strength for us this year,” Quakes defender Jason Hernandez told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ve got a good group of guys in the locker room. There’s definitely a great vibe within the team, and I think we all have the same attitude and the same mentality and we’re focused on the same goal – to win a championship.”

With their raft of off-season acquisitions and re-signings, San Jose were looking to fill several roles on the pitch after crashing out of the playoffs. Beyond that, though, they were also looking at how players would fit in the locker room.

“When you add people, you never know what they’re like as characters,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “You find out as much as you can about them, you ask around. We knew Shea [Salinas]. Victor [Bernardez] and Marvin [Chavez], we did our homework. I phone as many people as I can about these guys without letting them know that we’re maybe going to be [acquiring] them. It’s difficult, but especially in our league, you try to make sure that you at least know he’s got good character.”

One potential cloud was removed when Bobby Convey was shipped to Sporting Kansas City in the offseason. Convey, the Quakes’ highest-paid player, was not on the same page as Yallop for much of last year, and by season’s end, both sides vented their unhappiness through the media.

It didn’t help matters, of course, that the team spiraled into a franchise-record 13-match winless streak – many of them without Convey on the field. And the Quakes know that just because they’ve started hot, it doesn’t mean they’re guaranteed anything a few months from now – or even in a few weeks, what with the Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake on the docket for San Jose’s next two Saturdays.

“Right now, everything’s great,” Salinas told MLSsoccer.com. “I think that’s easy to do when you’re winning. I think winning makes everything good in the locker room. When you’re losing, that’s when things kind of get tested in the locker room.”

Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sanjosequakes@gmail.com