2013 in Review: New head coach gives San Jose Earthquakes hope, but playoff push falls short
Over the next two weeks, MLSsoccer.com will take a look back at the 2013 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with D.C. United and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning New York Red Bulls. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2013 record: 14-11-9 (51 points); 35 GF / 42 GA (-7 GD)
The San Jose Earthquakes knew it wouldn’t be easy to replicate their incredible numbers of 2012, when they set franchise records with 72 goals and 66 points, good enough to secure the franchise’s first Supporters’ Shield.
Yet they never expected their road this year to be filled with so many obstacles.
Injuries, suspensions and a surprisingly leaky defense piled on the pressure in the early going, and it all came to a head during the first week of June, when Frank Yallop – the only coach the Quakes had employed since their 2008 rebirth as an expansion side – exited in favor of assistant Mark Watson.
The move might have shocked many – including some in San Jose’s own locker room – but it seemed validated when the Quakes rolled to a 9-2-3 finish, barely missing out on the fifth and final playoff berth in the Western Conference to Colorado on a tiebreaker. Watson and his group might not have made the postseason, but he did get a nice consolation prize: The 43-year-old had the “interim” tag removed from his job title at season’s end and will return next year with a chance to help shape his own roster.
Best Moment of the Year
The Quakes were already underdogs heading into their June 29 California Clasico against the LA Galaxy, having changed coaches just a few weeks earlier. Hopes further dimmed when center back Victor Bernardez was sent off for a rash second yellow in the 77th minute.
But the Quakes pulled even at 2-2 with 92nd-minute goal from Shea Salinas. And a minute later, a slick sequence, which began with a laughing Marvin Chavez breaking the ankles of A.J. DeLaGarza, ended with Sam Cronin lifting a chipped pass to a wide-open Alan Gordon at the back post for the shocking game-winner.
Worst Moment of the Year
Watching Corey Hertzog score for the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 6 while Bernardez and Gordon were stranded on the sideline may have cost the club a postseason berth. San Jose had set up the bizarre, self-inflicted 11-on-9 situation when both Bernardez and Gordon came off the pitch to change their cleats, only to find that they couldn’t get back onto the field until the next time the ball went out of play. Adding insult to injury: Had San Jose won the match instead of drawing 1-1, they would have had enough points to qualify for the playoffs.
Chris Wondolowski may have lost his grip on the league’s scoring title – 2013 was the first time in four years he didn’t have at least a share of the crown – but the Quakes’ lone DP still showed plenty of quality as part of his 11-goal haul. Perhaps the most impressive came on March 23 at home against the Seattle Sounders.
Just outside the Sounders’ penalty area, Wondolowski used a sublime trap to bring down a skidding header off Jon Busch’s long punt, then ran onto the slowly rolling ball and lasered a shot past Michael Gspurning, off the far post and into the back of the net.
In a grind-it-out season for the Quakes, nobody could top the work ethic of Cronin. While some followers complained that San Jose’s preferred central midfield pairing of Cronin and Rafael Baca weren’t incisive enough, the fact is that they dutifully fulfilled the tasks they were assigned in the Quakes’ gameplan. For Cronin, that meant breaking up plenty of opposition attacks, even before they fully formed, and cycling the ball out to the wings for Salinas and Cordell Cato to launch San Jose’s offense.
Talk about playing the long game; San Jose’s best move of 2013 sprang from a decision originally made five years earlier. That’s when the Quakes snatched up the MLS rights to US international defender Clarence Goodson, who was available in San Jose’s 2008 expansion draft because he had already made the decision to move to Scandanavia. The addition of Goodson – and fellow midseason acquisition Jordan Stewart – helped solidify what had been an at-times-shaky backline.
“Speechless." – Forward Chris Wondolowski on Yallop's dismissal
1. Attacking midfielder: If the Quakes really are going to add versatility to their attack, they need a dynamic offensive force in the center of the pitch, which was the very first thing general manager John Doyle acknowledged in his season wrap-up with local reporters.
2. Striker: San Jose are also searching for a striker with the speed to stretch opposing back lines out of shape, something they haven’t had in years. These first two needs become especially acute if Chavez – who had 13 assists in 2012 as a key component to the attack – gets his reported wish of landing with another club.
3. Lock down Steven Beitashour: The Quakes can ill afford to lose the out-of-contract right back, who was an MLS All-Star in 2012. However, with the San Jose native joining the Iranian national team this year, he might be looking for club closer to his parents’ homeland. Another wrinkle: the Quakes declined the 2014 option of Dan Gargan, Beitashour’s primary backup this season.