The 2016 MLS regular season was one of frustration for the San Jose Earthquakes and head coach Dominic Kinnear. The club posted a record of 8-14-12 record and missed out on the playoffs for the fourth consecutive year.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES 2016 SEASON REVIEW
The 2015 campaign felt like a new beginning for the franchise. Kinnear returned to the Bay Area after his time in charge of the Houston Dynamo and the long-awaited opening of Avaya Stadium was met with great praise.
The opening stages of the 2016 season began with promise.
Preseason wins over Sacramento Republic FC and the New York Cosmos were followed by victories in San Jose’s first two regular season matches against the Colorado Rapids and the defending MLS champion Portland Timbers. Forward Quincy Amarikwa’s brilliant long-range chip in the match against Portland was an incredible highlight and a contender for goal of the season.
The Quakes stayed in contention within a difficult Western Conference for much of the early season, but a summer swoon ultimately began to unravel a solid start. Star forward Chris Wondolowski led the team with 12 goals this past season, but his absence during the Copa America Centenario did not help San Jose’s point total.
A winless stretch of seven games between May and July opened the door for other clubs to get ahead of the Quakes in a competitive conference.
But it was the end of the regular season where the disappointment truly manifested. San Jose finished eight points off the final playoff spot in the Western Conference, winning only one out of their final 11 matches.
WHAT WENT RIGHT
The staples of the San Jose Earthquakes were still intact, as Wondolowski’s scoring touch and a stingy defense were part of their strong start to 2016. The all-time franchise leader in MLS goals continued to be a force at the top of Kinnear’s 4-4-2 formation and is still a regular call-up for US national team manager Jurgen Klinsmann.
Marvell Wynne, Victor Bernardez and Clarence Goodson led a backline that was among the best in MLS this season. US national team goalkeeper David Bingham recorded eight clean sheets and the Quakes allowed only 40 goals throughout the 2016 campaign.
Midfielder Matias Perez Garcia was traded in August to Orlando City SC in exchange for El Salvador national team captain Darwin Ceren. While both designated players did not have much of an impact this season, the trade for Ceren could pay dividends in the near future.
Away from the regular season, the successful hosting of Premier League side Arsenal in the AT&T All-Star Game in late July was a positive for both San Jose and the league itself.
WHAT WENT WRONG
Scoring goals was the main issue for San Jose over the course of 2016. The Quakes’ 32 goals in the regular season was the lowest total in MLS, as Wondo was relied upon too often to provide an offensive spark.
Homegrown Player and US youth international Tommy Thompson continues to shine during loan stints in USL with Sacramento, but has yet to make a major contribution on the MLS level. Although fellow American Fatai Alashe did step up in a positive way for the Quakes’ midfield in 2016.
A disciplined and organized defense kept San Jose competitive in many matches. However, a lack of goals hindered Dominic Kinnear’s ability to lead the squad back to the postseason.
San Jose will want to focus on adding offensive firepower and getting younger at key positions. The organization will also want to ensure that important players are properly protected ahead of the MLS Expansion Draft in December. Minnesota United and Atlanta United FC join MLS in 2017.
Most of the defensive backline are in their 30s and Kinnear will want to begin to build for the next phase. Help for Chris Wondolowski up top, as well as an eventual replacement, will need to be identified to get goal scoring numbers on the rise.
More will be certainly be expected of Ceren and designated player Innocent Emeghara. The 27-year old Swiss forward has shown flashes but has not consistently found goals since arriving last season.
Since capturing the Supporters’ Shield in 2012 with “The Goonies” squad that outworked and outmuscled the competition, the San Jose Earthquakes have not returned to the MLS Cup playoffs. However, with a strong nucleus of players and a proven winner in manager Dominic Kinnear, the 2017 season is bound to bring improvement for San Jose.