The San Jose Earthquakes have been relatively quiet since the end of their season just under a month ago as it pertains to confirming any roster moves. Speculation has abounded as to who will and who won't be back for the 2014 season, but with the first MLS off season waiver draft scheduled for this Monday, moves that have not been formally announced will certainly come to light.
Hand in hand with the roster cuts that are a part of every MLS season will be news of players signed to contract extensions. Late Thursday, the first significant announcement of that sort came via Twitter from English defender Jordan Stewart:
Stewart joined the Earthquakes in July during the summer transfer window and immediately assumed the left back position for a team that had struggled through the first half of the season. From his first start on July 27, a 2-1 victory over the Western Conference points leaders Portland Timbers, San Jose complied a record of 8-2-3 and conceded only 10 goals. His half-season performance certainly warranted a contract extension, and Stewart's tweet was quickly confirmed by Earthquakes president Dave Kaval:
Stewart quickly became a fan favorite at Buck Shaw Stadium for his relentless energy on the field and his electrifying overlapping runs from his fullback position. While the 31-year old didn't tally a single goal or assist, the measure of his value stands out in the Quakes 0.75 goals per game allowed average with him in the starting line-up. And perhaps the nomadic footballer -- San Jose is the 10th professional stop in a career that started with Leicester City in 1999 and his 8th in the last five years -- has found a home.
The contract extension for Stewart answers one question regarding the makeup of the Earthquakes back four going into 2014, but other stations on defense still have not been determined. Clarence Goodson, like Stewart a midsummer signing, is expected back, but the fate of fellow centerback Victor Bernardez is not as certain. Meanwhile, right back Steven Beitashour is out of contract and may pursue opportunities overseas as he chases his dream of representing Iran in the 2014 World Cup.
Still, the signing of Stewart does represent a tidy decision by the Quakes brain trust of head coach Mark Watson and general manager John Doyle and a step in the right direction in forming the roster ahead of next season.