San Jose Earthquakes 2018 Preview

San Jose, led by first-year head coach Mikael Stahre, will be looking to wave goodbye to their perpetual mediocrity and finally launch a season of achievement. This new season could prove to be the most opportune moment for the Quakes to become the top team in California and make a meteoric rise up the ranks of MLS. Can they build on last year’s playoff disappointment?

Key Players: Vako and Andrew Tarbell

One of the bigger transfers in the offseason saw U.S. international David Bingham swap San Jose for Beverly Hills as he went south to the Galaxy, who were in desperate need of an established No. 1. Enter 2016 Superdraft pick Andrew Tarbell. The former Clemson took over the starting job for the final third of last season and got the starting nod for their 2017 knockout round loss in Vancouver.  It looks to me that 2018 could be a big year for the 24 year-old, who has a chance to impress Stahre and grow under new goalkeeping coach Jyri Nieminen. I wouldn’t sweat this at all, Tarbell has an opportunity to establish himself as a potential long-term No. 1 at the Avaya Stadium.

As for Vako, he was signed on a DP contract last June. While he only appeared in thirteen games, he scored five goals and tallied one assist. Aside from his minimal MLS experience, the 25 year old has plenty of experience with Vitesse in the Dutch Eredivisie, scoring 25 goals and assisting 10 in 104 appearances. This international experience, particularly in a league where superstars get their start, may prove to be invaluable. San Jose is going to need his creativity from the middle of the park.

Offseason Grade: B+

The arrival of new coach Mikael Stahre will be exciting to Quakes fans, as 2018 looks to  be critical year for the franchise. He arrives with substantial coaching experience in Europe and is their fourth coach in four years.  Stahre, 42, has coached for a decade, mostly in Sweden with clubs including Vasby United, AIK, and IFK Goteborg. He also coached in Greece and China. He coached Hacken to a fourth-place finish in the recently concluded Allsvenskan, Sweden’s top league. That being said, the Swede will look to bring in stability and has a knack for giving younger players. Tommy Thompson is just the tip of the iceberg of the Quakes’ homegrown talent. Homegrown defender Nick Lima was a rookie of the year finalist in 2017 and should continue to see forstbteam minutes. At 23, he’s proved to be one of the best right backs in MLS and was called to the U.S. National Team camp in January. San Jose signed three additional Homegrown players this offseason including U.S. U-20 goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski and a two 16-year-olds, Jacob Akanyirige and Gilbert Fuentes, that are two of the youngest players in MLS. 

The Quakes made a splash in the offseason transfer market first with the signing of  27-year-old Designated Player Magnus Eriksson, a left-footed winger that has appeared for the Sweden National Team and led the top Swedish league with 14 goals in 2017. Along with Eriksen, San Jose also added 21-year-old center back Yeferson Quintana on a season-long loan with option to buy and made a permanent transfer for Dutch striker Danny Hoesen, who spent last season on loan.

San Jose also brought in some young talent with the additions of 21-year old Brazilian Luis Felipe, who has appeared for the U.S. U-20 National Team, and 20-year-old American Eric Calvillo, who competed at the 2015 FIFA U-17 World Cup alongside Christian Pulisic and Tyler Adams.

Best Case Scenario: Make the playoffs and sign a star

German Florian Jungwirth impressed last season, playing out of position, and Panamanian international Anibal Godoy is a strong anchor in the midfield. San Jose may lack a goalscorer alongside Wondo, however, I still think that they are capable (just barely) of making the playoffs for the second consecutive year. If they can do this while adding anothet big-name to their roster, I’ll consider it a pretty good season. 

Bold Prediction:

This is a critical year for San Jose in which they need to establish stability under their new manager while trying to build on their playoff appearance last season. The Quakes have a beautiful home in Avaya stadium, and the potential to use this season as a platform for future success. This season, the Quakes produce a mid-table finish, add some important offensive pieces, and make the playoffs, propelling them to a bright future.