When David Bingham emerged as the San Jose Earthquakes first-choice goalkeeper last preseason, it marked the first bold move by new head coach Dominic Kinnear as he attempted to resurrect a club that simply went through the motions before his arrival. Bingham, a backup to veteran Jon Busch since joining the Quakes as a rookie in 2011, survived some early season jitters to become a top-shelf quality MLS 'keeper by the end of 2015.
And now, a year on from his accession to Quakes #1, Bingham is ready to do even more for the only club he has every known, starting with San Jose's MLS season opener on Sunday against the Colorado Rapids at Avaya Stadium.
"It's starting where you finished off last year," said Bingham on the last day of preseason training. "In the middle and end of last year, defensively and as a team, we kind of hit our stride. We want to pick up right where we left off and start on the right foot."
The 26-year-old had a spectacular debut season as the team's top goalkeeper, matching a club record for shutouts with 12 and managing a defense that allowed only 39 goals all season, tied for third best in a very competitive MLS Western Conference.
"David had a great year last year," said Kinnear. "I expect that he will have a good year this year as well."
San Jose missed out on the MLS Cup playoffs by one victory in 2015, something Bingham hopes the team can improve on in 2016, but he showed caution in predicting the Quakes would break a three-year postseason drought come October.
"We'll take it one game at a time and not look too far forward," said Bingham. "It's a long year, and it will have its ups and downs. We have to stay together as a team, and if we stay on an even keel all year, we'll be in a really good spot."
Bingham parlayed his impressive 2015 season into a call-up to the U.S. men's national team training camp earlier this year. On February 5, Bingham earned his first cap with the U.S., earning a 1-0 victory against Canada in which he didn't have to save a single shot on target. The month-long camp, under the guidance of national team coach Jurgen Klinsmann, was invaluable in giving the Quakes 'keeper a strengthened resolve heading into the 2016 MLS season.
"It was a great experience," said Bingham. "I had a lot of fun while I was there, and I could really take things from here and there. I hope to take those lessons from the national team camp and bring them here and help us be successful here."
Jurgen's national team camps, often presented as a series of grueling fitness sessions by some, presented Bingham with some valuable experience at a time when the U.S. is beginning to look a bit long in the tooth at the goalkeeper position. Veterans like Tim Howard and Brad Guzan are still in the mix for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, but Bingham is now firmly in the conversation for other opportunities with the national team, including this summer's Copa America Centenario. He fully appreciates the little things he brings back to San Jose, and knows that the right attitude is what might be necessary to get the Quakes back into the MLS Cup playoffs for the first time since 2012.
"It's the level of consistency you have to have when you're there," said Bingham of USMNT camp. "It's unacceptable to take a play off when you are there, and when you are around that for a months time, you see the level of energy being consistent day in and day out, every play, and it inspires to to hit that level and break it back here."
Making the chances of Bingham taking another step forward in his development as a successful goalkeeper in 2016 will be the steady presence of center backs Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez in front of him. Add in the solid play of fullbacks Marvell Wynne, second last year in minutes played to only Bingham himself, and Shaun Francis, and the Earthquakes boast a consistency along the back line that should pay dividends.
"It's huge," said Bingham of the returning defensive starters. "We haven't lost anyone from the back four -- we haven't lost that many players overall -- so it's great for our team. We've gelled well, and we arguably have the best back four in the league, so it's definitely an exciting time."
Exciting times, indeed, hopefully culminating in six months time into goal number one for the Earthquakes number one -- an MLS Cup playoff berth.