The most surprising thing about the maiden MLS voyage of the Earthquakes 2.0 has been the lack of surprises. So far, Quakes fans have seen most, if not all of the boys in blue (and black) performing up to (or, down to) expectations.
When I look at the lineup as currently constituted, I see a squad where half of the starting 11 could be (and it some cases, should be) changed. No matter how much you admire the team’s professionalism, work ethic, and new video screen at Buck Shaw, the club is 3-9-3 (and five points behind the second-worst club in MLS) on merit.
The bright spots are so few as to be easily seen. Joe Cannon is still a top MLS goalkeeper. The defense in front of him, anchored by Nick Garcia, is tough, period. Ramiro Corrales is the hard working guy we all knew and loved from his previous stay in San Jose, and while Ronnie O’Brien has shown only a few glimpses of the talent that twice earned him MLS Best XI honors at right midfield, it would take someone exceptionally special to replace him. No surprises there.
As for the rest of the squad, Quakes fans hoping that Shea Salinas would bloom into the MLS rookie of the year (as Fox Soccer Channel’s Max Bretos predicted) have been disappointed. Ditto for anyone wishing Ivan Guerrero would remind us of the guy who had nine assists for the Fire back in ’06. Ned Grabavoy? I’ve seen several games where I haven’t noticed him at all. That’s great if you’re a referee, but Not Good Enough when you’re playing center mid. Gavin Glinton? Kei Kamara? Anyone? Bueller? Bueller? No surprises there, either.
With all the trialists coming through town, and the several moves the team has made since opening day, you’d think (or, hope) that somebody would have stepped into the spotlight by now. Nope. Not yet. Someone might shout out the name Ryan Johnson, as he’s been the closest thing to a revelation Quakes fans have seen, but that spark has quickly faded.
Not long ago, I wrote the Quakes still had playoff hopes, and I stand by that. There’s still time, and enough playoff spots, for the Quakes quest for the postseason to achieve Success, but it’ll take more talent than the team currently possesses. Since there haven’t been any special surprises on the current roster, that means the Quakes’ chances this year depend on the new players they’ll be bringing in.
When you’re watching a team with one goal in their last five matches, it’s easy to cry out for more offense, but as Jay Hipps’ interview with GM John Doyle illustrates, while it’s easy for the Quakes to get a forward, it’s pretty damn tough to find the right forward (or midfielder) to improve the team. But any quality players, regardless of the position they play, would be welcomed. A new holding midfielder, for example, might allow Corrales to move out left, replacing Guerrero and maybe stretching the field a bit offensively.
So, like just about everyone following the San Jose Earthquakes 2.0, I have July 15 circled on my calendar. And, like just about everyone else, I’m heartened by Doyle’s saying the club is looking to sign as many of three new players when the transfer window opens next week. Now, the question is, which players will the team add? Darren Huckerby? Francisco Lima? Some mystery man CLS reporters haven’t seen yet?