Danny O'Rourke is likely to feature in the Earthquakes' midfield in 2005.
Juan Miranda/MLS/WireImage.com

Shrader: Quakes in shape for 2005

with his third MLS team at the age of 23 -- has become a scorer, playing both in the middle and on the left wing. Alejandro Moreno and Ronald Cerritos have appeared dangerous up front, while Dwayne De Rosario got off to a late start with the club after a late signing. Ricardo Clark (from the MetroStars) and Danny O'Rourke (first round draft pick) look comfortable in the middle.

The Quakes have to deal with the loss of former key players like Landon Donovan, Jeff Agoos, Richard Mulrooney, Ronnie Ekelund and Ramiro Corrales. But, there are a bunch of players on this 2005 version of the Quakes who would like to prove they too have some championship mettle.

"We have some young players coming up," said veteran goalkeeper Pat Onstad, who enters his third season with the club. "Are they Landon Donovans? We can't pretend that they are. At the same time you'll see a team that won't rely as much on Landon's magic for 15 minutes a game.

"I think what you'll see is 11 guys that know they have to work hard to win games."

There are plenty of defenders returning -- Troy Dayak, Eddie Robinson, Craig Waibel, Ryan Cochrane -- and the return of Wade Barrett, after a couple of seasons playing in Denmark and Norway. He looks fit and is hungry for another MLS title.

"I have to tell you I am really jealous about that 2003 championship," Barrett said. "I watched the progress (of the team in the 2003 playoffs) on the internet and I consider this my team, and I was really happy to see that. These guys have two rings, and I'm really jealous about that."

Barrett had become a Major League Soccer Best XI defender before he departed after the 2002 season, and there are many around the team who believe he's even better now.

Second-year coach Dominic Kinnear is quite pleased with this bunch of new Quakes.

"All and all the camaraderie in the group has been A-1," he said.

Certainly, Kinnear didn't want to lose all those great players, who helped the team win two MLS titles in the last four years. But in this business, and in most of the world of professional sports, you have to be able to make over a team every three or four years and that's what has happened here. About one-third of this team has been turned over since the end of last season.

And the inevitable question about the departure of America's national team star, Landon Donovan?

"The first thing you have to remember is that he is not coming back," Kinnear said. "You can't look in the past, you have to look forward. He's a wonderful player and a wonderful person. He won't be playing for the Earthquakes. You have to stop thinking about what you're going to do without Landon. He won't be here."

The guys who are here will soon be back from their two-month sojourn across North America. The Quakes have trained in Florida, Southern California and, this week, in South Carolina. When they are back, they are back for a while, with the first two games of the season at home on April 2 vs. the New England Revolution and April 9 vs. Club Deportivo Chivas USA.

It might be a great time to see the beginning of a special group, and "The Brians" will be there, too.

John Shrader has been the voice of the Earthquakes since 1996 and has worked in television and radio in the Bay Area for the past 20 years.