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2013 SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES SEASON PREVIEW
The San Jose Earthquakes were one of the most dominant teams in the MLS during 2012, winning the Supporters Shield with a 19-6 record and enjoying a stellar season from forward Chris Wondolowski, who set the MLS goal-scoring record. Although the squad fell in the Western Conference semifinals to the eventual MLS Cup champion, the Los Angeles Galaxy, the team has kept the majority of its core intact for another major run in 2013. The squad will open up with a series of tough matches against the New York Red Bulls, Houston Dynamo and Real Salt Lake, but all eyes will be on their late June matchup with the Galaxy, which may have major playoff implications.

The San Jose Earthquakes boasted one of the best MLS seasons in recent memory in 2012, finishing with a 19-6 record, capturing the Supporters' Shield and rewriting the record books in the process. The Earthquakes were simply thrilling to watch during 2012, and came out of nowhere with a series of clutch offseason signings before the campaign that made them into the Western Conference's biggest surprise playoff team.

The offseason for the Earthquakes was an eventful one, and saw the departure of midfielder Simon Dawkins, who is now with Aston Villa in the English professional leagues. The team also parted ways with defenders Joey Gjertsen, Tim Ward and Ike Opara, but for the most part have been able to keep their core group intact. The vast majority of the Earthquakes' offseason acquisitions were depth players like midfielder Dan Delgado, forwards Marcus Tracy and Mike Fucito, as well as a slew of defenders like Dan Gargan, Ty Harden, Peter McGlynn and Tommy Muller, the latter of which has the highest ceiling and could slide into a starting spot before season's end.

The scoring attack for the Earthquakes was their strongest suit during the 2012 season, and that should continue during the 2013 campaign. The forward position is lead by Chris Wondolowski, who, along with Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon, forms one of the most formidable groups in the MLS. They are flanked by Marvin Chavez, Shea Salinas and Rafael Baca, who proved to be another great group that provided the grit and toughness needed to give the goal scorers a chance at opposing goaltenders.

Defensively, the Earthquakes enjoyed a stellar season from Victor Bernardez in 2012, and Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow were invaluable defenders on the outside of the field. The squad made an effort to sign a variety of depth players in the offseason, which could help out the team if any of the starters are out for an extended period of time. Finally, at goaltender, Jon Busch has been a reliable, albeit undersized, presence in the net for the Earthquakes, but could be pressed for playing time by David Bingham, who could get his share of starting opportunities. While the Earthquakes were a surprise in 2012, they enter the 2013 season as major contenders and will have to repeat their magical performance for a shot at this year's MLS Cup.

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7/25/2014 3:12:46 AM on TCWEB2