Are the San Jose Earthquakes the worst team in MLS? Are 2015 newcomers Orlando City SC and New York City FC better bets to find success this season? Is the only thing Quakes supporters have to look forward to this year at brand-new Avaya Stadium hanging out at the Largest Outdoor Bar in North America™?
Well, according to bookmaker Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook, the largest race and sports book in the world, the Earthquakes have the longest odds -- 50-to-1 -- of winning the 2015 MLS Cup. San Jose shares its long-shot status with the Colorado Rapids, Philadelphia Union, and Montreal Impact. The MLS side with the best odds -- 3-to-1 -- is defending MLS Cup champions LA Galaxy.
Why no love for the Earthquakes? After all, the club is moving into a brand new stadium and is expected sold-out crowds for most home matches. This past offseason, the Quakes maxed out their Designated Player slots and signed a trio of MLS veterans that bring much-needed speed to the line-up. In charge of the rebuilding effort is returning head coach Dominic Kinnear, who has a pedigree of MLS playoffs success only the Galaxy's Bruce Arena surpasses.
So down on the Quakes are bookmakers that they deem San Jose less likely to win 2015 MLS Cup than the league's two new expansion teams in Florida and New York. Sure, those clubs may boast household names like Brazilian legend Kaka and Spain's forward assassin David Villa, but the Earthquakes have Chris Wondolowski, and no one has scored more goals over the past three seasons than Wondo.
The Earthquakes certainly deserve scrutiny entering the 2015 MLS season -- look no further than the club-record 15-game winless streak they carry into this year. Kinnear has spent the preseason experimenting with different line-ups and formations, searching for the right combination and tactics that will help the Quakes break their ugly streak of futility. He has been encouraged with what he has seen thus far, but expects the experimenting will continue all the way up to opening day.
"We still have three weeks to go," said Kinnear, "and a lot can happen between then and now. We have a handful of guys that are not participating because of injury. I never want to say in three weeks we are going to do this or that because along the way something may happen where we have to change our minds."
Kinnear put together a preseason schedule that was very heavy with friendly matches, both with local Bay Area teams and fellow MLS competitors. The Quakes finished an 0-1-2 trip against league teams down in Arizona earlier this month, but they did recover to beat the Colorado Rapids to capture the Las Vegas Pro Soccer Challenge Cup last weekend. San Jose will face LA Galaxy on February 28, the last of 10 games the team will play in a very busy 2015 preseason.
"They are very important," said Kinnear of the competitive friendlies. "For all the guys, they haven't played, besides Chris [Wondolowski with the U.S. men's national team]. Guys have done things on their own or in small groups, but it's not really against the competition that is out there. It requires a different mindset than when you are with your buddies."
If the Earthquakes are to defy the (Las Vegas) odds this season, they'll need to be in top-shape from opening kick, and Kinnear is intent on making sure that is the case. But fans won't have long to wait until they can judge for themselves whether the Quakes will have what it takes: San Jose visits FC Dallas on March 7 to open the 2015 MLS regular season.