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2016 Western Conference Preview San Jose

Tommy Thompson's hype train might be more like a monorail. But Anibal Godoy is the real deal.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

San Jose Earthquakes

2015 Record:

13-8-13 (W-T-L), 7th in the Western Conference

2015 Goals For:

41, tied for 17th in MLS

2015 Goals Against:

39, tied for 3rd in MLS

2015 Key Statistic:

Record without Anibal Godoy (March 6 to August 8)

7 wins, 5 Ties, 10 Losses

Record with Anibal Godoy (after August 14, 2015)

6 wins, 3 Ties, 3 Losses

Key Additions:

Andrew Tarbell, Simon Dawkins, Chad Barrett

Key Subtractions:

Leandro Barrera, Steven Lenhart?

What they have going for them:

San Jose started with defense in 2015, and will certainly go into 2016 that way too. This team, which finished just out of the playoffs in 2015, returns almost its entire starting lineup, and should enjoy additional success due to maturation of young players and the gelling of other folks.

San Jose have three young, talented players going for them: Anibal Godoy, Fatai Alashe, and David Bingham. Godoy, as mentioned in the ‘2015 key statistic' above, joined the team from a team in Budapest and played the CDM role in SJ's 4-1-4-1, and was fantastic. He killed balls into the midfield and made beating the Earthquakes defense even harder than it already was with Victor Bernadez and Clarence Goodson doing excellent work in central defense. Fatai Alashe showed sparks as a midfield box-to-box guy, although he played at full back and center back too. Figuring out his best position for 2016 will be important, but regardless, Alashe shows promise going into his sophomore season. David Bingham was handed the reigns as the starting GK after several years as a backup, and he didn't disappoint, even earning himself a call-up to USMNT national camp and getting his first cap against Canada on February 6.

The offense has the speedy Sanna Nyassi to bring the ball up for MLS veteran goal scorers Chris Wondolowski and Quincy Amerikwa. Chad Barrett and Adam Jahn can come on as in-the-box muscle late in the game. Matias Perez Garcia will see the field and generate the passes that get the goals. The team also has a new DP in Simon Dawkins, who joins the team from Derby County in the English Championship; maybe alongside MPG, or maybe up top.

What's Troubling?

San Jose didn't do a lot in the off-season, and that's with a team that didn't make the playoffs in 2015. The guys they  have might have under-performed in 2015 because they needed a year to gel. Or maybe they simply aren't that good to begin with.

Their new Designated Player, Simon Dawkins, is a striker that's only scored 7 goals in the past three years. That's a question mark. They lost their talented left back, Jordan Stewart, to a blown ACL, and just converted a midfielder, Cordell Cato, to play there instead. Another question mark. San Jose might also have a question mark at creative midfield: Matias Perez Garcia is supposed to be the run-and-gun play maker that makes this team tick, but he only came up with 7 assists in 2015. They need more from him this season in goal creation, because just having a dominant defense won't make the playoffs if your team is 17th out of 20 teams in goals scored.

Then there's Tommy Thompson. TT used to have a whole hype-train behind him, but he can't crack the starting XI - the hype train is starting to feel more like the Springfield monorail from the Simpsons - flashy, but not very functional .

Sure, San Jose didn't need Thompson much in 2015 and still made a run at the playoffs. But still. There's a cost to having a player on the team and giving them minutes if they can't turn those minutes into clear production. Just ask Dillon Serna.

Chris Wondolowski scored 16 goals in 2015, but at 33 years old, he's probably starting in on the backside of his career. How much that slide starts this year might make a big difference for this team.

2016 Forecast:

I think a full year with Godoy and a rising David Bingham means this team will be as good or better in 2016 as they were the year before. Expect San Jose to grab the 6th spot in the Western Conference and go to the playoffs, even if they get there by playing defensive, boring, hang-on-for-dear-life-with-a-1-0-lead soccer.