Last winter, the San Jose Earthquakes brought back 13 of their 14 most-used players from a squad that captured the 2012 MLS Supporters’ Shield. This year, change is coming for the Quakes.
San Jose general manager John Doyle made that much clear in a recent interview with MLSsoccer.com, saying that in order to fill the club’s biggest needs -- an attacking force in the center of midfield and a striker with speed to beat opposing backlines -- salary-cap space will need to be cleared.
“We’re at the top of the budget right now,” Doyle said. “So to bring players in, which we want to do, we’re going to have to move some players. ... That’s a for-sure thing.”
What’s not certain is which players specifically might be divested from San Jose, whose late-season run at a playoff berth this season fell agonizingly short. While the Quakes might not be going to the Kansas City this weekend, they are racking up plenty of frequent-flier miles in an attempt to get to the 2014 MLS Cup final.
Members of the front office or coaching staff have gone on scouting trips through South America (Colombia and Brazil) and Europe (Denmark, England, France), combing their scouting lists to check on potential additions.
Combined with a strong presence at a myriad of US college tournaments, it represents a jump in terms of on-site scouting for the Quakes, prompted by coach Mark Watson (above), who lost his interim tag in October. One of Watson's main aims as the permanent office-holder is the increase the diversity of the Quakes' attack -- which will likely require new players as well as tactical shifts.
“Mark has really put an emphasis [on scouting] and been really organized, and really pushing the assistant coaches to do more,” Doyle said. “The commitment is phenomenal. ... His work ethic and organizational skills have been great.”
Doyle said the club is looking at a wide array of possibilities in terms of age of players, ranging from young up-and-comers to more established veterans. Competing against clubs worldwide is always hard for MLS teams, but Doyle feels the Quakes are laying the requisite groundwork to bolster their attack.
“I don’t want to jinx it, but I’m hopeful,” Doyle said. “We’re working on things. I think we’re doing all the hard work, so hopefully we’ll get something to pan out.”
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Along with bringing the newcomers, the Quakes might also need to replace a key component of their lineup. Right back Steven Beitashour, who went from a former ballboy for the club to MLS All-Star, is out of contract and his status remains a question mark.
“We have one or two out of contract that we’re looking to sign, but we’re not sure if those players want to sign,” Doyle said. “They’re waiting, also, to see what happens.”
Doyle was also mostly mum on the future of midfielder Marvin Chavez, who was an integral piece of the 2012 squad but fell out of favor with Watson and didn’t even make the game-day 18 in the season’s final weeks.
“Marvin’s under contract with us and we’re still figuring out what the future will bring with Marvin,” Doyle said. “That’s all I have to say about that.”