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San Jose Earthquakes Finally Get A Field Of Their Own

The team celebrates the opening of the Nutrilite Training Facility

By Tommy Wright

The San Jose Earthquakes have not been to the playoffs since they returned to Major League Soccer as an expansion team in 2008. After two seasons of finishing in last place and struggling to find a home, there is renewed hope for the team.

The Earthquakes have never had their own home. The team playing at Spartan Stadium until the original MLS franchise moved to Houston in 2006. They now play all of their home games at Santa Clara University’s Buck Shaw Stadium, after playing the occasional home game at the Oakland Coliseum the last two years.

But on Friday, the team celebrated the opening of the Nutrilite Training Facility adjacent to the San Jose Airport. The team previously practiced at West Valley College and Santa Clara University.

General manager and former Earthquake John Doyle says the grass they used to practice on was different from the grass played on in games. “You’re training on a racetrack and then playing on a slower course,” Doyle says of the difference in surfaces. He says the new field is identical to those in the stadiums.

Joe Cannon, the Quakes’ goalkeeper, says it is nice to have a place to call their own. Cannon, a two-time MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, played for Santa Clara University from 1995 to 1997 and played for the Quakes from 1999 to 2002, before returning in 2008.

In March, the San Jose City Council voted to rezone the former FMC plant next to the training facility to move toward building the Quakes a new stadium.

“We’re going to work to do everything we can to make sure the stadium becomes a reality,” Mayor Chuck Reed said to fans gathered for opening festivities Thursday.

Cannon says he is looking forward to the stadium, but joked that he would like to see some of the dilapidated old FMC buildings on the other side of the facility’s fence remain. “I kind of think they shouldn’t knock them down,” he said. “They should make this into an old, Wild West town.”

The team has experienced quite a few changes as well. After his 2009 season was cut short due to hip surgery, the celebrated midfielder Darren Huckerby retired. The Quakes also lost midfielder Shea Salinas, who was picked up by Philadelphia Union in an MLS expansion draft during the off-season. Doyle says the team didn’t want to lose Salinas, but “in this era of the MLS, it is hard to hold on to your young guys.”

The Quakes also made some important additions. The team selected Ike Opara, who is still a student at Wake Forest, with a third overall pick in the draft, and he is already contributing. He has two goals, but he missed Saturday’s game to take his final exams.

Steven Beitashour, who was born in San Jose and was a star at Leland High School, is another rookie who has already notched a goal.

Doyle says people often overlook the age of “veteran” players like Arturo Alvarez, Ryan Johnson, Jason Hernandez and Brad Ring, who are all still in their mid-20s.

“We have a good, young nucleus,” Doyle says.

The team also added Brazilian veteran Eduardo Adelino de Silva in the off-season, who most recently played in Switzerland.

Chris Wondolowski, a Danville native who left San Jose when the franchise moved to Houston and was traded back to San Jose last year, in now his sixth season in the MLS. He got back into the starting lineup against the New England Revolution on April 17, and has scored a goal in each of his first two starts.

“I’m not the biggest, strongest or fastest guy,” he admits, “but I feel like I can make some smart runs,” Wondolowski says. “I’m smart with the ball, I know the game pretty well. And it always helps to have some great teammates.” He thinks if the team stays healthy they have a good chance at making a playoff run.

Doyle and Head Coach Frank Yallop say the team might add another player for the stretch run. But Yallop says he is happy with the depth of the team, and says he thinks the team can plug players into holes if anyone is struggling or gets hurt.

“With this squad now, we are good enough to make the playoffs,” Yallop says. “Obviously you need a little bit of luck, a little bit of good play, a little bit of other teams not doing so well at certain times in the season. But I feel good about where the team’s at.”

Vs. New York
May 8, 7pm