How the San Jose Earthquakes can Build on 2015 Campaign


Although they barely missed out on the playoffs, the San Jose Earthquakes should feel confident about the direction of their team. A year after gaining a dismal 30 points, the former worst team in the Western Conference made progressive strides that will continue to carry out over the next few seasons. However, there are still key aspects that need to be improved upon if the Earthquakes are going to continue their Western Conference climb.

Grind it Out Style of Play

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The San Jose Earthquakes scored 41 goals and conceded 39 in 2015. Both numbers tied for the third-lowest in the league, respectively. The plus-two goal differential does not amaze at first sight. However, when compared to the negative-15 goal differential of last season, the 17-goal swing is a prime example of the positive steps taken by the Earthquakes.

They scored six more goals and conceded 11 less goals in 2015. 39 goals against was one of the best tallies in the league, and the Earthquakes would be happy to repeat that number next season. The offensive firepower, or lack thereof, still needs to be improved upon if San Jose intend on qualifying for the playoffs.

Attack Needs Help

Chris Wondolowski led the team with 16 goals, which is two more than he scored last season. The 16 goals scored by Wondolowski exemplifies the superb season he had, and on the way, he became the ninth player ever to tally 100 goals in MLS history. Wondolowski is not the issue. The rest of the goal scoring threats are.

The next-leading scorer after Wondolowski was Quincy Amarikwa, who contributed six goals while playing for San Jose. The fact that Amarikwa was the second-leading goal scorer is unsettling because he did not join the Earthquakes until late-June. The rest of the players who scored this past season were limited to two or three tallies, respectively. Wondolowski clearly needs additional help offensively and the Earthquakes should make that their main priority during the off-season.

October 3, 2015; San Jose, CA, USA; San Jose Earthquakes forward Chris Wondolowski (8) controls the ball against Vancouver Whitecaps FC during the second half at Avaya Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

That being said, the acquisition of Amarikwa provided the Earthquakes with a much-needed spark. He brought energy and enthusiasm, which played a vital role in the playoff push. A full season with Wondolowski and Amarikwa will certainly make the offense a potent threat to opposing defenses in 2016.

Defensive Miscues

Allowing 39 goals per game is generally a strong stat line. In a 34 game season, that comes out to just over an average of one goal conceded per match. Goalkeeper David Bingham was consistently solid all season long. He posted 12 shutouts and made 105 saves throughout the season, the third and fourth-highest stats amongst MLS keepers. For the most part, the backline in front of Bingham was just as consistent.

Unfortunately, the Earthquakes had a difficult time seeing games through. Seven of the 39 goals against came after the 75th minute, and three of those came in stoppage time. These late errors generally came in matches that the Earthquakes were winning. Their inability to see games through to the finish meant that San Jose often drew matches that they should have won, losing a total of 15 points.

This trend was especially evident in the September 5th match against the Philadelphia Union. On the heels of a four-game win streak, the Earthquakes surrendered two goals, once in the 74th and once in the 86th minute, eventually losing at home to the lowly Union, 2-1. The result stripped San Jose of all three points and proved to be a momentum killer late in the season. These are the defensive miscues that the Earthquakes need to rid themselves of if they are to continue making strides in the Western Conference.

There is plenty of reason to be optimistic, Earthquake fans. The offense and defense moved in the right direction following the 2014 campaign. The first season in the new Avaya Stadium marks the beginning of an era. With Wondolowski and Amarikwa up top, more goals are inevitable. The late defensive miscues need to be addressed. That being said, only 39 goals conceded is the benchmark that the Earthquakes will set out for in the 2016 season. With the current foundation strongly rooted, look for the Earthquakes to continue making strides on in to the 2016 MLS playoffs.