Curtain rises on Quakes camp
Under sunny skies at West Valley College in Saratoga, the San Jose Earthquakes began their quest this week to add a third MLS Cup to the club's trophy case. After just a quick glance at the practice field, it was abundantly clear that if the Quakes are to win the championship in 2005, it would be with an almost completely different group of players who helped the team to titles in 2001 and 2003.
"It is a new squad," said Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Conway, who has been with the club since 2000. "There are lots of new faces, and I am looking forward to a good year, it is a whole different team now."
Offseason moves and departures saw 11 players from the 2004 Quakes move on, and now Dominic Kinnear and John Doyle are attempting to win with a new set of important, young players led by Ricardo Clark, Alejandro Moreno, Brad Davis and first-round draft pick Danny O'Rourke. That's in addition to the returning veteran mix of Brian Ching, Brian Mullan, Pat Onstad, Troy Dayak and Ian Russell among others.
Feb. 1 was the first time the 2005 Quakes were all together, and after a quick introductory meeting in the locker room, Kinnear put the returning players, new additions, and 2005 SuperDraft hopefuls through their first workout as the task of transforming the group into a true team began.
"Sometimes you look at preseason and think that it is too long, but I think for this team, it is probably the right length," Earthquakes goalkeeper Pat Onstad said. "It is going to take four or five weeks for us to settle in and learn what each others strengths and weaknesses are, and I think once we learn that and figure out who is going to step up and be the starting 11, hopefully we will jell together."
The Quakes started a rigorous two months of training with a light session on Tuesday, but the intensity was there right from the start, with several hard, sliding tackles high-lighting the possession game that concluded practice.
"The intensity was fantastic today," Kinnear said. "If we can keep that kind of intensity up throughout the preseason, we are going to be just fine."
With so many new players in training camp and fighting for a spot on the roster or in the starting lineup, expect much of Kinnear's second preseason as a head coach to include high-energy workouts.
"This year it is a different kind of confidence and a different kind of approach," Kinnear said about his second year in charge. "I think last year we knew we had a good team, we were defending champions and we had all of these players coming back. We knew it wasn't going to be a cakewalk, but we felt once we got to the playoffs something special could happen again. Obviously, it didn't. This year, it is a different type of excitement and hunger. We are bringing in a lot of new players, and a lot of young players. We are going to learn as we go, but I think one thing that is going to stand out is that the effort on the field is going to be great."
The effort was there throughout the Quakes' first week of practice, which includes several two-a-day sessions before the team heads to Bradenton, Fla. on Feb. 11 for more practices and several exhibition matches, which will give Kinnear even more of a chance to view his new squad in action.
"It is a good, young team," Onstad said. "I think that with the additions of Alejandro Moreno and Ricardo Clark and Ronald Cerritos that we will have an attacking team that will score lots of goals and a hard-working team which is always fun to watch."
But, as preseason training gets underway, Quakes fifth-year veteran midfielder Ian Russell is just thinking about one thing – playing soccer again after too long of an off-season.
"I think everyone is excited to be back," Russell said. "There are a lot of new faces and we are excited to see how it is going to come out. I think if you look at the players that are here, everyone is a hard working player, so that is going to be a bonus for sure. It is going to be fun to learn to play and come together with these new players, and I am looking forward to it."