The San Jose Earthquakes’ seemingly bottomless depth was arguably the biggest reason why they were able to put up a team-record 72 goals during the 2012 MLS season and post a Supporters’ Shield-winning 19-6-9 record.
But with the salary cap looming, it looks like the Quakes won’t be able to afford such coach Frank Yallop a deep and experienced bench when it comes to 2013.
With success comes a lengthy list of players who will be seeking raises, and the Quakes have been no different; left back Justin Morrow received a reworked contract in October, while center back Jason Hernandez and midfielder Sam Cronin agreed to new terms last month. And San Jose general manager John Doyle confirmed to MLSsoccer.com that the club is working on renegotiations with right back Steven Beitashour and league MVP Chris Wondolowski, who would be getting a third bump in as many winters.
All of this has to pencil out somewhere, however, which is why Yallop might not have the same kind of firepower to call on as substitutes next year.
Ike Opara, the third center back behind Hernandez and Víctor Bernárdez, was the first budget-balancing casualty, dealt Wednesday to Sporting Kansas City in exchange for the No. 33 overall pick in next month’s SuperDraft. Midfielder Khari Stephenson, a key cog in 2011 but seldom used this year, will be available Friday in the Re-Entry Draft’s second phase, as will Joey Gjertsen, who spent all of 2012 trying to come back from knee surgery.
Without a salary cap, Doyle said, the club would certainly be interested in keeping the likes of Opara and Stephenson. Reality, however, dictates otherwise.
If the Quakes do indeed gain full-time use of twice-loaned midfielder Simon Dawkins from Tottenham Hotspur, San Jose should bring back at least 13 of its 14 most-used players from 2012. The only question mark is veteran captain Ramiro Corrales, who is slated to return as a potential player-assistant coach hybrid in 2013 — assuming nobody goes the Jesse Marsch route and selects the Bay Area native in Friday's Re-Entry Draft Stage Two.
Beyond that, however, there will be plenty of change for the Quakes, who need to not only restock their depth for defense of their Supporters’ Shield but also for the 2013-14 CONCACAF Champions League, which will begin next summer. San Jose could be active in Friday’s draft, and certainly will look to unproven recent draft choices — those upcoming and those already on the roster — to provide cover at several positions.
“Sam Garza, Cesar Diaz Pizarro, Jake Hustedt — those young guys have to really step forward because they’re going to play,” Doyle said, mentioning three Quakes rookies from 2012. “Then we have to add a few with the draft.”
With what’s left of his budget, Doyle is also seeking to add experience to a team that didn’t have a plethora of it coming into 2012.
“We’re going to have to add three or four players into the team, and you’d like to add some guys who’ve been there before, experienced players,” Doyle said. “We don’t have a ton of money, that’s for sure, so it’s something we have to be creative with.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.