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San Jose Earthquakes and the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs: Former Quakes make mark in postseason

For San Jose fans following the 2016 MLS Cup Playoffs, there are plenty of former Quakes to cheer on.

Alan Gordon! Alan Gordon! Alan Gordon!
Alan Gordon! Alan Gordon! Alan Gordon!
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Following another late season swoon, this year's San Jose Earthquakes fell out of postseason contention and, for the fourth straight season, missed the MLS Cup Playoffs. It was 2012 -- the year of the Goonies -- when San Jose last played past the regular season. The Quakes won the Supporters' Shield going away that year, but not much has gone right since then.

The 2013 and 2015 Earthquakes made it interesting all the way up to the last weekend of the season. But the 2016 Quakes were mathematically eliminated before then, finishing their season with two meaningless games, including a scoreless draw against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the last home game at Avaya Stadium. MLS Decision Day -- when San Jose finished the year with an uninspiring 2-0 loss at Sporting Kansas City -- put a merciful end to another season of frustration.

So what is left to do for Quakes fans, especially those still tuning into the playoffs despite the absence of the Blue and Black? Well, cheering on the host of former Quakes chasing MLS Cup is one option. And looking at the list, there are plenty.

In fact, in what is both shocking and sad at the same time, every member of the 2012 Supporters' Shield winning San Jose Earthquakes member still playing in MLS -- save those currently cashing a check from the Quakes -- made the 2016 playoffs. Every single player.

Curiosity? Coincidence? Certainly crushing to San Jose supporters yearning to see their team return to prominence. The 2012 Earthquakes diaspora left some at home -- Chris Wondolowski, Simon Dawkins, Shea Salinas, Victor Bernardez, and David Bingham -- but it also sees seven former players plying their trade elsewhere. At least these trophy-winning former Quakes are still entertaining fans in this 2016 postseason:

Sam Cronin (Colorado Rapids): The Croninja was a mainstay of the midfield in 2012, providing the bite as young Rafael Baca (now at Cruz Azul in Liga MX) provided the finesse. He was deemed superfluous by the club prior to the 2015 season and traded to the Rapids where he has been their most consistent player during a turnaround that saw the club contend for the Western Conference title this year. He's only 29 years old and entering is prime playing seasons. According to the information provided by the MLS Players Union, Cronin's salary nearly doubled between 2012 and 2016 ($119,156.25 vs. $227,500), but he has been worth every penny for Colorado. Cronin's equivalent on the current Quakes, Anibal Godoy, earned $242,250 in 2016.

Justin Morrow (Toronto FC): J-Mo has had an MLS Best-XI season with the Reds, scoring five goals this year, including a memorable one against San Jose at Avaya Stadium this summer. The 2012 MLS All-Star was traded to Toronto following the 2013 season, and he quickly established himself as a reliable defender for struggling TFC. His perseverance and talent let Morrow survive the lean years, and now Toronto look to be MLS Cup favorites. Morrow earned a respectable $111,562.5 in 2012 and now takes in nearly twice that ($216,666.67) in 2016 -- well worth it for the premier left back in MLS. J-Mo's replacement in San Jose, Jordan Stewart, cashes a check for $100,000 this season.

Steven Beitashour (Toronto FC): Seeing Beita at right back, opposite his former San Jose teammate Morrow on the left, racing the sidelines this season in Toronto has not been easy for Quakes fans to digest. Another of the team's 2012 MLS All-Stars, Beitashour was traded to Vancouver following the 2013 season after playing out his four-year rookie contract (worth $44,100 in 2012) with his hometown club. He wanted a big bump in salary, but the Quakes saw fit to spend their money elsewhere. The Iranian international earned $244,000 this season with TFC, while his replacement on the San Jose roster, Marvell Wynne took home $224,375.

Jason Hernandez (New York City FC): The human backstop and New Jersey native went home to New York following the 2014 season when he was selected by NYCFC in the Expansion Draft. A fan favorite at Buck Shaw Stadium for his heroic defending, Hernandez has been a big part of New York's back line last season and this. When the powder blues visited Avaya Stadium this season -- it was the first time Hernandez played in the Quakes new stadium -- the fans showed him all sorts of love, including a "Thank You" tifo from the San Jose Ultras. The centerback's wages have modestly increased since 2012 ($175,000 then to $210,000 in 2016), but they remain below his replacement in the Quakes starting line-up, Clarence Goodson ($342,000 this season).

Alan Gordon (LA Galaxy): Certainly a So-Cal guy at heart, Gordon put together his best seasons ever when on the Quakes, and in 2012, along with Steven Lenhart, captured the attention of soccer fans in the Bay Area and across the nation with his Bash Brothers persona. Gordo wasn't afraid to rip of his jersey to show off his washboard abs, but it was his endearing adoption of the fans' fervor that made him a favorite in San Jose. Back in 2012, Gordon earned every penny of his $120,000 salary, and this season, playing the same on-field role for the Galaxy, counts a salary of $170,000. A bargain for the punishing target forward role that he plays, Gordon's departure opened the door for Quincy Amarikwa ($260,666.67 in 2016 guaranteed compensation) to lead the spear of the Quakes attack since 2015.

Medhi Ballouchy (New York City FC): The Moroccan Marvel played a bit role with the 2012 Quakes, as he currently does for NYCFC this season. And even though he may not dress for New York in these playoffs, he'll be at Yankee Stadium cheering on his team as they chase the 2016 MLS Cup.

Ike Opara (Sporting Kansas City): The centerback, who never really established himself as the Next Big Thing during his three years in San Jose, set career marks for the 2016 Sporks. At only 27 years old, he still has some potentially productive years ahead of him, and perhaps even a starting role next season. He came to the Quakes with much fanfare -- a Generation Adidas signing and top-four draft pick -- but injuries limited him. His enduring memory in San Jose was missing a shot on goal against the Galaxy in the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs that saw the Goonies die for good.

Will we see Toronto FC or New York City FC survive their Eastern Conference semifinal showdown Sunday afternoon, sending two former Quakes one step closer to a championship? Can Gordon and the Galaxy continue their Race for Seis, or will Cronin and Colorado oust the perennial contenders tomorrow at DSG Park? There's certainly something for Earthquakes fans to follow this postseason, especially those that remember the halcyon days of 2012.