a 4-2 win over the Galaxy in Spartan Stadium and a 3-1 win over the Rapids, also at home, come to mind. Then there were times they looked a little like chumps -- losing all those one-goal games for example.
"You never want to be a champion that doesn't make the playoffs," said coach Dominic Kinnear. "At times we have shown flashes of complete brilliance this year, and at times we haven't."
The Quakes avoided the indignity of being one of only two teams not invited to the postseason, and now it's time to look at the Quakes as a contender for the title. They have the two trophies in the case. They have the best player in America, Landon Donovan. They have some of the most under-appreciated players in the game, including Richard Mulrooney. They have outstanding team chemistry. They have tremendous pride. And did I mention they already have two trophies in the case and would love to join D.C. United as the league's only three-time champions.
"There are two seasons in this league," said captain Jeff Agoos, "And now we have to look at each game one by one, face the challenges and obstacles that are ahead of us, and try to get another ring."
This from the league's only five-time champion, who, like so many of the Quakes players, has had to fight through injury to stay on the field and give this team its best chance to win a title. And as captain, he's had to work on keeping the group together off the field, while many of the young players were distracted by so much talk about the team being sold and moving to a city in Texas or some other issue related to ownership of the team.
If there were a template for how to defend a championship, this would not be it:
Play 11 ties in 30 games, lose 10 of 12 one-goal games, go down to the final minutes of the last game before a playoff spot is secured, and finish the last two months of the season with a 1-3-4 record. Kinnear said he has not been unhappy with the effort.
"We have competed in every game," he said. "We've lost only one game by two goals but we got hurt by too many late goals."
Yet, Landon Donovan said he thinks the rest of the teams in this league still fear the champions.
"We have as good a chance as anybody to win (the title)," he said. "I don't think anybody wants to play us in the first round."
You'd better stay tuned with this team. Look at 2003: down by four goals in Game Two of the Western Conference Semifinals, they ran off five straight goals, then got an overtime win in the Western Conference Final and beat the favored Chicago Fire, 4-2, in MLS Cup.
"As we saw last year," says Donovan. "Anything can happen." As we've seen all year long, anything can happen.
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.