The San Jose Earthquakes are set to begin their 2016 MLS campaign when they play host to the Colorado Rapids on Sunday afternoon at Avaya Stadium — after a dramatic finish which resulted in them just missing the playoffs last season, San Jose’s bolstered roster, led by captain Chris Wondolowski, described an itchy and excited feeling to get back out on to the pitch.
The Quakes have missed the postseason the past three years, but with possibly the most offensive roster the team has fielded in the same span, head coach Dominic Kinnear thinks the team has what it needs to return to the playoffs. In his second year as head coach, Kinnear managed the Quakes to a 13-13-8 record last season, just eight points from the postseason. Despite the unbalanced record, Kinnear thought his squad was prepared for a playoff run.
“I think we were a playoff team last year,” Kinnear said. “Of course, everyone thinks they are. We were within a whisker. One bounce here or there and maybe we’re addressing this question a little bit differently. I think we’re a better team than last year. It’s only good in theory. You still have to go out and play.”
Even with that, Kinnear knows the job won’t be any easier with the slate clean, and a new season in front of his team.
“We can’t be blind to the fact that we’re better now so this is going to be easy for us,” he said. “There is a fine line between winning and losing in this league.”
San Jose has an ample opportunity to take advantage of that fine line early in the season, at home, where they will play five of their first eight games this season. Players such as Chad Barrett, Andres Imperiale, Alberto Quintero and Simon Dawkins, all offseason additions to the roster, are fit and immediately available for play on Sunday.
A much faster and offensive-minded team will hope to make an immediate impact on home field, where the Quakes scored the third-fewest goals (41) in the league last year. Dawkins could be the epicenter of the increased productivity — a member of San Jose’s last playoff team, the Jamaican national scored 14 goals while playing on loan in 2011-12. That 2012 roster also showcased the league’s best record, 19-6-9.
Dawkins was signed to a three-year deal during the offseason, and his past experience with the club became a mitigating factor in the decision process.
“I had a good two years here, so when the opportunity came around, I thought it was something I would like to do again,” Dawkins said. “My second year ended really well; we got to the playoffs but didn’t win the finals. So in coming back, there’s some unfinished business.”
The Quakes made a midseason splash last year when they acquired Quincy Amarikwa from the Chicago Fire — his presence was felt almost immediately, the six goals he scored was good enough for second most on the team. Kinnear is likely excited to see how Amarikwa’s productivity will increase playing a full season with the team. The recently signed Barrett, a 30-year-old forward whom has scored 12 goals in his past two seasons as a member of the Seattle Sounders, further bolsters the Quakes’ offensive attack, Kinnear said.
“We think we’ve added 10 to 15 goals,” Kinnear said. “Now, if we can realize that, the acquisitions were a success and the team will succeed because of it.”
Information from Eric Branch and the San Francisco Chronicle contributed to this report.
David Barclay is the San Jose Earthquakes insider for byteclay.com. Follow him on Twitter, @DJamesIII