The pundits and the predictors do not look favorably on the San Jose Earthquakes ahead of the 2017 MLS season, as it’s an almost unanimous opinion that they will fail to qualify for the postseason for the fifth straight season.
The hiring of new general manager Jesse Fioranelli and the singing of five seasoned international players has done little to impress those that rate the 22 MLS teams that will be setting forth on the league’s 22nd campaign, the 20th season of San Jose soccer. Even in a season when there will be two expansion sides — Atlanta United and Minnesota United — the Quakes are often viewed as below the new guys.
The MLSSoccer.com crew ranked the Earthquakes #21 in their first Power Rankings of the year, with questions surrounding the job security of third-year head coach Dominic Kinnear. Resident Armchair Analyst Matt Doyle chimed in that he would even put the Quakes below Minnesota, the #22 ranked team, saying the Loons were an intriguing team to watch. He probably is revisiting that assessment following Minnesota’s 5-1 season opening crushing at the hands of the Portland Timbers Friday night.
The analytics-driven ESPN website FiveThirtyEight.com, which uses its Soccer Power Index (SPI) ratings to derive its predicted finish table ran its simulations of the 2017 MLS season and found the Quakes tied with Minnesota and the Chicago Fire for last place overall. Given that the SPI places a lot of emphasis on goals scored — and given that San Jose managed to find the back of the net a paltry 32 times in 34 games last season — it comes as little surprise that the Quakes find themselves so far down the list.
USA Today, via scribe Ives Galarcep, followed the lead of the MLS writers and assigned San Jose #21, ahead of the Loons. The longtime league observer feels that the Quakes will find the Western Conference too competitive and are destined to have 2017 be a year of learning for their youth corps of players.
Sports Illustrated and the Planet Futbol crew assign the Earthquakes the MLS Wooden Spoon in 2017, predicting a dead-last finish across both conferences.
Over at Four-Four-Two, who boldly proclaim their rankings are “The most accurate 2017 MLS predictions you'll find on the internet,” the Earthquakes get zero mention in the article, other than a bottom spot in their Western Conference predicted table. Last place — behind Minnesota and the Houston Dynamo — with nary an explanation.
The crew at NBC Sports — five voters weighed in this year — have San Jose placing from #9 to #11 in the West. The ninth-place predicted finish is the best of any of the preseason polls, which isn’t saying a lot when only the top six teams in the conference qualify for the postseason.
Even SB Nation — our parent wesbite! — gives the Earthquakes a #10 predicted finish in the Western Conference, well below the playoff qualification red line. Thanks, fellas!
Bottom of the table. Worst in the West. Five-year playoff drought. The headlines don’t look to promising for the Earthquakes, but the news isn’t having a toll on confidence inside the San Jose locker room to prove everyone wrong.
“If I cared what people predicted and thought, especially about myself, I wouldn’t have made it out of high school soccer,” said Earthquakes team captain Chris Wondolowski when the topic of rankings came up earlier this week.
In a league built on parity, Wondolowski is probably right to ignore the pundits. After all, last year, the Colorado Rapids were shown no love in the polls following a last place finish in 2015, but they rode a solid home record and the occasional road result to a Supporters’ Shield runner up finish to FC Dallas.
For the Quakes, who last made the playoffs in 2012, on the heels of their own Supporters’ Shield winning season, they’ll be aiming for their own worst-to-first campaign in 2017. It is the play on the field, not the banter in the pressbox, that determines the best teams in MLS.