San Jose Earthquakes

Back in the league for a few years now and making a splash.

Trophies: 2001 MLS Cup, 2003 MLS Cup, 2005 Supporters’ Shield, 2012 Supporters’ Shield

Fan personality: Underdogs. Losing the team after the 2005 season still rankles many San Jose fans, even if their absence turned out to be a brief two-year gap. The Quakes had to rebuild from scratch, and their situation has still seemed tenuous at times. Now they have shovels in the dirt and some more hardware.


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Stadium situation: For a small, temporary facility, Buck Shaw Stadium isn’t bad. At least its day job is also as a soccer field — for Santa Clara’s soccer teams. And it’s officially temporary. Stadium progress has gone in fits and starts. But on Oct. 21, 2012, the team set a Guinness World Record by getting 6,256 people to participate in a groundbreaking ceremony. It’s on. Follow along on the stadium blog.

History

The original Earthquakes were a long-standing cornerstone of the NASL, bringing a steady parade of Englishmen and even Northern Ireland/Manchester United/nightlife legend George Best to the Bay Area. The name outlived the NASL, and the Earthquakes stuck around in the Western Soccer Alliance through 1988. Dave Litterer’s essential archives say the Quakes then evolved into the San Francisco Bay Blackhawks, a distinguished team in a couple of leagues in the early 90s.

What happened next is a little murky. Wikipedia and a couple of BigSoccer entries point to a buyout of some sort when MLS launched and took over the Bay Area market, but I haven’t found any primary sources as of yet. (I’m happy to crowd-source — anyone have any extra information? It’s not something that came up in my book.) But when MLS launched, the San Jose Clash hosted the first game with a few former Blackhawks around — including Eric Wynalda, who scored the first goal in MLS history just when it appeared the debut might be a 0-0 tie (and a shootout). Other Blackhawks who later played for the Clash included Paul Bravo, Troy Dayak, Jeff Baicher, eventual coach Dom Kinnear and current general manager John Doyle.

That’s not to say all was rosy — though original coach Laurie Calloway was also a Blackhawks holdover, but Wynalda famously hired an airplane to tow a banner asking the team to fire him. And the team accomplished little on the field in the four years it was known as the Clash.

Revolution owner Robert Kraft took over the formerly league-owned team after the 1998 season. By 2000, the team was still cycling through new players but had also rebranded as the Earthquakes.

More changes in 2001, then a stunning change of fortune. Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment took over from Kraft. Frank Yallop took over as coach. And then the team got a 19-year-old phenom who had found Germany wasn’t to his liking — Landon Donovan. Defender Jeff Agoos got over his disappointment at leaving D.C. United and had a career year, Ronnie Ekelund and Richard Mulrooney formed a potent central midfield duo, and then-unknown Dwayne De Rosario netted the winner in the MLS Cup final.

The next year wasn’t as fruitful, but then 2003 was the stuff of legends. Down 4-0 on aggregate against the Galaxy, the Quakes scored four goals in regulation and a fifth in extra time. They needed to rally again in the semifinals against Kansas City, then beat Chicago for their second title in three years.

Yallop moved to coach the Canadian national team, but Kinnear took over and kept the team moving along. Though Donovan moved back to Germany briefly and then to Los Angeles, Kinnear’s core — De Rosario, Brian Ching, Brad Davis, Brian Mullan and Pat Onstad — won the Supporters’ Shield in 2005.

But the team lacked an owner — Anschutz moved in to steady things after Silicon Valley bailed — and a stadium. Potential owners fell through. City leaders shuffled their feet. MLS set an ultimatum. The Quakes left town, reborn as the Houston Dynamo.

Immediately, Oakland A’s owner Lew Wolff stepped up, helped by a potent grass-roots movement called Soccer Silicon Valley. While Houston went on to win two more championships in 2006 and 2007, Wolff set about reforming the team. In an NFL-style move (similar to the Cleveland Browns “returning” even though the team had moved elsewhere), MLS granted Wolff the name, the history and a sort-of expansion team, returning in 2008.

Yallop and Doyle returned, and the slow rebuilding process began. In 2012, it paid off. Chris Wondolowski tied the MLS season scoring record with 27 goals. Honduran defender Victor Bernardez was a finalist for the league’s top defender and newcomer awards, and he joined Wondo on the league’s Best XI. Goalkeeper Jon Busch was steady as usual. The Quakes won the Supporters’ Shield. Can they build on that momentum and take another trophy to their new stadium?

2013 previews: MLSSoccer.com, ESPN, Soccer America, SB Nation (no preview – site is here)

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