No surprises this time: SJ stick to winning formula in '13

SAN JOSE, Calif. – If anything’s for certain with regards to the 2013 San Jose Earthquakes, it’s this: Frank Yallop’s side will not be sneaking up on anyone.

Not after garnering a team-record 66 points last season. And not after doing it in a manner that left some opponents – most volubly LA Galaxy defender Omar Gonzalez – complaining through the media about the Quakes’ perceived lack of tactical grace and refinement.

“It’s very different,” midfielder Shea Salinas admitted. “Last year we got to start out with no one really expecting much from us. But I think for the second half of the season, we did have a target on our backs. No one liked us, no one liked playing against us – you could tell that in the media – and no one wanted to play us, whether it was home or away. So we did have a target on our backs. And I think we liked it.”

Good thing, because Yallop has no plans to change his team’s style, not after having so carefully crafted the Quakes’ roster. From their 2008 expansion beginnings, San Jose have added physical forwards Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart to collect crosses from speedy wingers Salinas and Marvin Chávez – with league MVP Chris Wondolowski floating through all the carnage to pop up at just the right time and place to score another “how’d he do that?” goal.

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“The way we play and our personnel, the way we go about it, we’re going to do the same things we did last year,” Yallop said. “With the personnel we have, we’re built to score goals and outscore the opposition. We’re going to concede goals along the way, but I think that we put enough balls into the danger zone area and hopefully our guys can continue what they did last year.”

The biggest question will be whether Yallop doubles down on his target men. The Quakes offense was never more dangerous last year than when they had Gordon, Lenhart and Wondolowski on the pitch at the same time, a setup that most often required Wondolowski to move into an outside midfield role.

Injuries will prevent him from making such a move at the season’s outset, since Gordon is expected to be sidelined into March while continuing to recover from offseason surgery. But if there is a big alteration to make, that might be it.

“Teams know the way we play, but we’re not going to change it,” Quakes left back Justin Morrow said. “I think we’re comfortable with that. And that’s one of the reasons why we’re so good.”

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