For the next two weeks, MLSsoccer.com will preview each of the 19 teams in Major League Soccer, beginning with the clubs that brought up the bottom of the table in 2011 and ending with the league's newest addition, the Montreal Impact. This is part two of two previewing San Jose's 2012 season. You can find Part 1 here.
Depth Chart: 1. Jon Busch, 2. David Bingham
Strengths: Busch led the league last year in saves, using finely honed reactions to frequently bail out a gaffe-prone Earthquakes defense. He’s also an emotional bellwether in San Jose’s locker room and -– despite having his cheekbone broken midseason – didn’t miss a game last year until coach Frank Yallop decided to give then-rookie Bingham some seasoning.
Weaknesses: The knock on Busch remains the same: that his relatively small stature (he’s listed at 5-foot-10) puts him at a disadvantage. If Bingham makes the US Olympic squad, a yet-to-be-signed No. 3 (probably trialist Evan Newton) would be one Busch injury away from starting.
Wildcard: With a spot on this summer’s Olympic team at stake for Bingham, will he be happy riding the bench behind Busch, who signed a contract extension just last month?
READ: 2012 San Jose Preview
Depth Chart: RB: 1. Steven Beitashour, 2. Tim Ward; CB: 1. Jason Hernandez – Víctor Bernárdez, 2. Ike Opara; LB: 1. Ramiro Corrales, 2. Justin Morrow
Strengths: Beitashour firmly established himself as a dangerous attack-minded right back last year, delivering a team-high seven assists in only 19 matches. Morrow made an impact in the final weeks, although it appears that Corrales, the ageless captain, will edge him out at left back. Bernárdez comes to the Quakes with the kind of international résumé San Jose have rarely enjoyed. Hernandez is a vocal presence quarterbacking the group.
Weaknesses: There’s not a lot of depth here. Bobby Burling, who logged 2,041 minutes last year at center back, was lost to Montreal in the Expansion Draft. With Ward still fighting a hamstring injury suffered in last year’s training camp, trialist Josh Suggs, a raw talent from the USL with speed to burn, could stick as cover at right back.
Wildcard: Opara came into MLS projected as a probable star and potential future US national team member. That talk has been muted since Opara broke the same bone in the bottom of his left foot in two consecutive years, cutting his season short in both instances. Now he has something to prove as he tries to re-establish himself in the Quakes’ lineup.
SEE: Preseason Schedule
Depth Chart: LM: 1. Simon Dawkins, 2. Shea Salinas, 3. Sam Garza; CM (attacking): 1. Tressor Moreno, 2. Khari Stephenson, 3. Rafael Baca. 4. Anthony Ampaipitakwong CM (holding): 1. Sam Cronin, 2. Jean-Marc Alexandre, 3. Brad Ring; RM: 1. Marvin Chávez, 2. Salinas, 3. Ampaipitakwong
Strengths: This was one of the Quakes’ true problem areas last year, and San Jose has made giant strides to address those needs, bringing in Alexandre, Chávez, Garza, Moreno and Salinas as well as re-signing Dawkins. With Chávez and Salinas, the once-plodding Quakes can fly down the wings. In addition, Yallop has a surfeit of choices in the middle, where he can mix and match to achieve various different styles of play; last season, the injury-riddled Quakes were far more predictable in their lines of attack. Dawkins normally plays more centrally, but he studied tapes of Samir Nasri on the left wing and made himself dangerous out there last season.
Weaknesses: With so many new faces and choices for Yallop to make week-to-week, the midfield must build its chemistry on the fly this year. There’s also the potential for discontent among those not picked by Yallop.
Wildcard: Moreno. The 33-year-old playmaker has been billed by San Jose brass as the club’s first true No. 10 since the Quakes were reborn in 2008. That’s a fair amount of pressure to put on a 5-8, 160-pound player who has never before tried MLS’ brand of physical soccer.
Depth Chart: 1. Chris Wondolowski, 2. Steven Lenhart, 3. Alan Gordon, 4. Sercan Güvenisik, 5. Ellis McLoughlin
Strengths: Wondolowski emerged from MLS obscurity to net 34 goals over the past two seasons, winning the 2010 Golden Boot and sharing top-scoring honors with Dwayne De Rosario last season. The 1-2 punch of Lenhart and Gordon give the Quakes their best pair of target men since reforming in 2008. San Jose hopes Güvenisik, a newcomer from Germany’s second and third divisions, can give them a forward who will dip behind the opposition’s last defender at opportune moments.
Weaknesses: The depth looks sketchy, although that’s somewhat deceiving because several of the midfielders can push up – especially Dawkins, who Yallop sees as more of a natural second forward than midfielder. Wondolowski has carried the offensive load for two years; asking him to do so for a third would be pushing the Quakes’ luck.
Wildcard: Lenhart was on track for a career year in 2011 before he left the team for good in July, overwhelmed by grief about his father’s unexpected death. If Lenhart can return to the form he showed during the Quakes’ 4-0-1 streak in May and June – a stretch in which he bagged four goals and two assists – it would go a long way toward assuring San Jose’s return to the postseason.