2016 MLS Season Preview: San Jose Earthquakes

As the 2016 MLS season edges ever closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what the San Jose Earthquakes could achieve this season.

The 2015 season saw San Jose Earthquakes move into their new Avaya Stadium but unfortunately, they were unable to make the postseason once again. It was a season of some fantastic highs but the ultimate low was missing out on the playoffs for a second-straight season – something head coach Dominic Kinnear will be desperate to fix. The Quakes finished four points behind sixth-placed Sporting Kansas City in the end, but ended relatively well and should push on this term. The loss of DP forward Innocent Emeghara was a bitter pill to swallow early in the season, but he should be back and will look to score the goals to fire San Jose into a playoff berth. Victories away at the likes of Seattle, SKC and DC United showed they could cope with the league’s best but they need to make that form last longer. Dominic Kinnear knows the formula to win MLS Cup, having won it twice with Houston Dynamo in 2006 and 2007 and he would love to lift the title with San Jose come the end of the 2016 season.

Last Season’s Finish:

Western Conference – Position: 7th – P34 – W13 – D8 – L13

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What Needs To Change This Year?

San Jose must improve their away form, following ten defeats on the road in 2015. That’s just not good enough if you are looking to make the top six. Despite boasting the third-best defensive record in MLS last term, their offensive play let them down. They ranked third from bottom in terms of goal output, having netted just 41 times. More goals will lead to more success. Chris Wondolowski knows how to score goals and he keeps on getting them, having now reached over 100 in MLS – being the fastest to achieve this feat. But the rest of the squad need to chip in with their fair share to ease the burden on the American. Chad Barrett has come in from Seattle Sounders and will look to help, while Simon Dawkins will be tasked with getting assists. It has potential to be an enormous season for the Quakes if they can learn from last year’s deficiencies.

Key Changes:

Ins: Chad Barrett – Forward, Simon Dawkins – Midfielder, Andres Imperiale – Defender, Andrew Tarbell – Goalkeeper & Alberto Quintero – Midfielder

Outs: Mike Fucito  Forward, Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi  Midfielder, Khari Stephenson – Midfielder, Paulo Renato – Defender, Tomas Gomez – Goalkeeper, Leandro Barrera – Midfielder

Key Player:

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Innocent Emeghara – Forward – The Swiss striker will feel like a new signing for San Jose, having only made seven appearances last season before his season-ending knee injury. With 76 goals scored in his professional career, he will look to put the Earthquakes back on the map and into the playoff picture as he looks to win his first major honour. If he can stay healthy, he could prove to be one of the league’s deadliest strikers in 2016.

One to Watch:

Simon Dawkins – Midfielder – The ex-Tottenham Hotspur midfielder has returned back to San Jose, having won the Supporters’ Shield with the club back in 2012. He could be the lucky omen that gets the Quakes into the playoffs once again and will hope to shine on his return to MLS. He has more than 50 MLS games under his belt and that experience should help Dawkins to settle straight back into the league. It’s now time for the 28-year-old to flourish again.

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Predicted Finish:

Western Conference – 6th  This time round we expect the Quakes to make the playoffs. They are a team that is battling in a very tight and competitive Western Conference but they had the third-best defence in MLS last term and have strengthened this offseason. Chris Wondolowski will get goals, as will the likes of Quincy Amarikwa and Innocent. They have a fine manager in Dominic Kinnear, who knows the league inside out and things look good for the Quakes. The teams around them have done some very good business and San Jose will struggle to challenge high up the standings, but they should be able to secure a top six finish. Here’s to what could be a great season in San Jose, California.

What are you expecting from San Jose Earthquakes in 2016?

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PODCAST: MLS ‘dark horses’, MVP predictions & Arsenal discussed

In this week’s MLSGB Podcast, Zack Walford sits down with Jamie Ives and Louis East to discuss who they think will be this year’s dark horses in MLS, as well as their predictions for who will be the 2016 MLS MVP.

Then the team finish by looking at Arsenal, and whether they can go on and win a first Premier League title in over a decade.

Be sure to comment below or get in touch on Twitter: @MLSGB_

PODCAST: Harry Shipp’s Montreal move, Sunderland & Manchester United discussed

In this week’s MLSGB Podcast regular host Zack Walford sits down with Jamie Ives and Louis East to discuss Harry Shipp’s surprise trade from Chicago Fire to Montreal Impact and the implications for both clubs.

Then, moving on to the Premier League, the team look at Sunderland and Manchester United and what both sides can expect to achieve for the rest of the term.

2016 MLS Season Preview: DC United

As the 2016 MLS season edges closer, we’ll be publishing each team’s MLS 2016 Season Preview. Today we take a look at what DC United will be looking to achieve.

DC United were the early Eastern Conference pace-setters last season, suffering only one defeat in their first ten matches. They ended the 2015 campaign in fourth place in the East as a season that began with so much optimism ultimately fizzled away, with playoff elimination coming against the New York Red Bulls for the second-straight season. Too many away defeats played a factor in their fall from the top, with ten defeats on the road a poor return. The heavy 5-0 defeat to Columbus on the last day of the regular season at the MAPFRE Stadium was the lowpoint. Sadly the season will also be remembered for being the last for former DP Eddie Johnson, who had to retire due to a heart problem that ultimately left him on the sidelines for the 2015 season. DC have CONCACAF Champions League commitments to deal with in late February before the MLS season starts, with a two-legged quarter-final against Queretaro coming up. They have suffered a huge setback with the news that goalkeeper Bill Hamid is set to miss 4-6 months with a serious knee injury.

Last Season’s Finish:

Eastern Conference – Position: 4th – P34 – W15 – D6 – L13

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What Needs To Change This Year?

Away form. As mentioned above, the road form last year brings cause for concern this season as three wins on the road just simply wasn’t good enough for a team that needs to be challenging at the top end of the Eastern Conference. This terrible away record was compounded by the fact they only scored nine goals away from RFK Stadium – something they need to seriously address. Their home form remains relatively strong, so there are some positives they can take into next season, but improving the returns on the road would put them in a much better position to challenge for success.

Key Changes To Squad:

Ins: Lamar Neagle – Midfielder, Patrick Nyarko – Midfielder, Marcelo Sarvas – Midfielder, Luciano Acosta (loan) – Midfielder

Out: Eddie Johnson – Striker, Jairo Arrieta – Striker, Michael Farfan – Midfielder, Facundo Coria – Midfielder, Perry Kitchen – Midfielder, Chris Pontius – Midfielder, Conor Doyle – Striker

Key Player:

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Patrick Nyarko – Midfielder – The midfield acquisition from Chicago Fire brings bags of experience and will hope to make an immediate impact with his new team. He recorded three goals and three assists last term and will hope to nail down a starting berth early on in what is a competitive DC United midfield. He will want to impress Ben Olsen and prove his worth to become a mainstay in that midfield and could become a key part of the side.

One To Watch:

Luciano Acosta – Midfielder – The 21-year-old Argentine has arrived on loan for the season from Boca Juniors. He made his debut against the Tampa Bay Rowdies, bagging an assist for Fabian Espindola in a 1-0 victory. Ben Olsen has said: “He’s unpredictable, he’s electric and he is a lot of fun to watch”. DC fans must be filled with glee at what this young man could bring to the RFK in 2016 and he’s definitely one to keep an eye on.

Predicted Finish:

Eastern Conference – 4th – We predict that DC will finish 2016 in exactly the same position as they finished up in 2015. The lack of forward options at Ben Olsen’s disposal is a slight concern as they released three forwards during the offseason. They should still make the playoffs but the absence of Bill Hamid in particular could prevent them from challenging at the very top. A few experienced names have come in, but they are all predominantly midfield options. It should be an exciting season nevertheless and they will hope for a better run in the postseason, should they qualify for the playoffs as expected.

What are you expecting from DC United in 2016?

PODCAST: Jordan Morris, Fernando Torres to MLS & Leicester

The usual trio of Zack Walford, Jamie Ives and Louis East sit down to talk MLS and Premier League in the latest MLSGB Podcast.

The team start by discussing Jordan Morris and his chances of success with the Seattle Sounders, before weighing in on Fernando Torres’s current link to Major League Soccer.

They finish up by revisiting Leicester City, as despite all odds, they are now favourites to win the Premier League title with just 13 games to go.

Be sure to comment below or get in touch on Twitter: @MLSGB_

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Bournemouth vs Arsenal

Competition: Premier League – AFC Bournemouth vs. Arsenal

Venue: Vitality Stadium – Sunday, February 7 – 13:30 GMT (08:30 ET)

Match Odds: Bournemouth 13/5 – Draw 12/5 – Arsenal 21/20

Match Preview

Bournemouth welcome title contenders Arsenal to the Vitality Stadium on Sunday afternoon in an important match for sides at either end of the Premier League table.

Bournemouth return back home after beating Crystal Palace at Selhurst Park on Tuesday night with a 2-1 scoreline extending their unbeaten run to three matches.

Former Gunner Benik Afobe scored the winner with what was his third goal since joining the club last month, having already scored against Sunderland and Norwich. The Cherries’ record signing looks to be a shrewd piece of business by Eddie Howe, and his goals could keep the club in the Premier League.

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The Vitality Stadium has seen some surprising results this term, such as the victory 2-1 against Manchester United and the crushing 3-1 loss to West Ham. An impressive away win over Chelsea will remain a fond memory for Bournemouth fans and they’d love to take three points from Arsenal this weekend too.

Arsenal have slipped to fourth, and are five points off leaders Leicester City after a poor run which has seen the club fail to score in three-straight matches for the first time since 2009.

This season is probably Arsenal’s best chance of lifting the title since they last won it in 2003-2004 and this fixture could get their title push back on track if they can seal the win they’re expected to earn.

Arsenal are winless in four league matches, firing blanks at home to Southampton last time out in Tuesday’s 0-0 draw. That followed a home loss to Chelsea by a single goal, and these poor results have seen them surrender top spot.

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Arsene Wenger needs to get his troops rallied for this one, as the last time they visited the south coast, they were annihilated by Southampton 4-0.

Alexis Sanchez is now back and fit. He’l need to fire on all cylinders for the rest of the campaign, while Francis Coquelin’s return should help protect the back four.

A lot of people will be expecting Arsenal to get all three points but Bournemouth will be resilient as they have been all season.

The reverse fixture at The Emirates saw Arsenal run out 2-0 winners but it could have easily been six or seven that day with the amount of chances Arsenal wasted.

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Team News

Bournemouth have doubts over Junior Stanislas but Callum Wilson (knee), Max Gradel (knee) and Tyrone Mings has been removed from the squad for the rest of the season.

Arsenal have a fresh injury concern in Tomas Rosicky, who could now miss three months after picking up a thigh injury against Burnley in the FA Cup. Santi Cazorla and Jack Wilshere remain sidelined.

Key Points

Bournemouth’s last five: L/D/W/D/W

Arsenal’s last five: W/D/D/L/D

Key Stat: Bournemouth have only registered three victories at home this season. Only Aston Villa have a worse record with one.

Key Player: Benik Afobe – The former Gunner will be out to prove he could of filled the void that predecessors before him have failed to live up to. He would love to help the Cherries to victory by netting against his former club.

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Score Prediction

Bournemouth 1-2 Arsenal – Both teams play attractive football and this should have goals in it as a result. Bournemouth play much more open than their opponents and if Arsenal can get their groove back on, they are so difficult to stop. An early goal could set the tone, but Arsenal should get their title tilt back up and running with a win.

Podcast: Matt Miazga, Galaxy’s signings & Pep Guardiola discussed

In the latest MLSGB Podcast, Zack Walford talks to Louis East and Jamie Ives about Matt Miazga’s transfer from the New York Red Bulls to Chelsea FC, and also discuss some of LA Galaxy’s most recent signings.

We finish off by talking about Pep Guardiola’s upcoming move to Manchester City now that it is official and have a quick recap of the Premier League’s transfer deadline day business.

Be sure to comment below or get in touch on Twitter: @MLSGB_

FA Cup Preview and Prediction: Liverpool vs West Ham

Competition: FA Cup Fourth Round – Liverpool vs. West Ham United

Venue: Anfield – Saturday, January 30 – 17:30 GMT (12:30 ET)

Match Odds Liverpool 29/10 – Draw 12/5 – West Ham 29/10

Match Preview

Liverpool play host to West Ham in the FA Cup fourth round on Saturday evening in what is a repeat of the 2006 final that saw Liverpool fight back from 3-1 down to win on penalties.

Liverpool are facing their third match in seven days here. They booked a Wembley date with Manchester City for February 28th after their League Cup semifinal victory over Stoke City on penalties on Tuesday.

But with plenty of key players having played that match, Jurgen Klopp could rest some of those stars for the West Ham game, especially as they head to Leicester City on Tuesday night.

If the Reds do advance to the fifth round, it will mean they play at least seven matches next month as the fixtures just keep coming. So some big decisions lie at the German manager’s door on what to prioritise.

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Christian Benteke could lead the line for Liverpool after starting on the bench against Stoke. He started both games against Exeter City in the third round of this competition.

For West Ham, the 2006 FA Cup final has been the closest the club has come to winning silverware since 1980. With the Hammer’s league form so strong, and with the scalps they have been pulling off, they could well go deep into this year’s FA Cup.

This competition gives them their last chance of winning silverware before they leave Upton Park for their move to the Olympic Stadium next season.

West Ham can take huge confidence from completing a league double over their counterparts on Saturday, scoring five goals and conceding none in the two league matches against Liverpool.

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With longer rest time than their opponents too, they could inflict some serious damage on the Reds.

Dimitri Payet is a man that Liverpool will need to halt, as the Frenchman has been so impressive since joining from Marseille in the Summer. One defeat in eleven has seen the Hammers move up into sixth place in the league, one place above the Reds in seventh, so this should be a close battle.

Team News

The match comes too soon for the likes of Daniel Sturridge, Philippe Coutinho, Martin Skrtel and Divock Origi, while Danny Ings and Joe Gomez are long-term absentees.

West Ham recently lost Carl Jenkinson for the season. James Tomkins, Michail Antonio and Mark Noble are racing to bit fit, while Andy Carroll is expected to be back in training next week. Diafra Sakho is still missing through a knee injury.

Key Points

Liverpool’s last five in all competitions: D/L/W/W/L

West Ham’s last five in all competitions: W/W/W/L/D

Key Stat: Liverpool haven’t conceded a goal at Anfield in the FA Cup since 2012, which coincides with the last time they got to the final, when they played Chelsea in a 2-1 loss.

Key Player: Dimitri Payet – When Payet is on the pitch West Ham look a totally different side. He is West Ham’s top scorer and leader in assists and is a true fan favourite. He can cause problems for a Liverpool backline that has been decimated by injuries in recent weeks and he is more than capable of unlocking the door that can send West Ham to the next round.

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Score Prediction

Liverpool 0-2 West Ham – A first league double over Liverpool since 1952 will give the Hammers huge amounts of confidence going into this one. Injuries on both sets of teams deplete the matchup of key players. But West Ham are confident away from home as victories over Arsenal, Manchester City and their opponents Liverpool have already shown. Whoever wins will be feared in round five.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Leicester City vs. Stoke City

Competition: Premier League – Leicester City vs. Stoke City

Venue: King Power Stadium, Date: Saturday 23 January K/O 15:00 GMT (10:00 ET)

Match Odds: Leicester City Evens Draw 12/5 Stoke City  11/4

Match Preview

Surprise title contenders Leicester City welcome Stoke City to the King Power Stadium on Saturday, looking to get back to the top of the Premier League table, while Stoke have European ambitions on their minds.

Claudio Ranieri’s troops have slipped up in recent weeks, with the latest setback a 2-0 defeat to Tottenham in their FA Cup replay on Wednesday.

One win in five has seen them wobble at top of the table, but that win did come against other surprise title contenders Tottenham last week, having now played Spurs three times in ten days.

Riyad Mahrez has missed crucial penalties against Aston Villa and Bournemouth in recent games, causing them to miss out on four points as they disappointingly drew both fixtures.

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Some will see this as their easiest match in coming weeks, with Liverpool heading to Leicester next, followed by trips to Manchester City and Arsenal after. Now is the real test of their title credentials.

Stoke are fighting for their own objectives. They sit in seventh place and are in the semifinal of the League Cup, while they also advanced comfortably into the fourth round of the FA Cup.

The Potters have been on a good run, with three wins in their last five Premier League matches.Their latest fixture saw them play out a hard earned draw with Arsenal at the Britannia.

Mark Hughes deserves massive credit for the job he has done at Stoke, with the flair on the wings and solid defensive setup helping the Potters to improve greatly.

Although away from home they struggle, with only four wins in twelve matches this season. They have only won back-to-back away matches once this season.

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With Jack Butland in goal they have a stubborn keeper who has kept five clean sheets on the road this season and he will hope for another here.

The reverse fixture saw Leicester draw 2-2 at the Britannia, having been 2-0 down but goals from Riyad Mahrez and Jamie Vardy meant they travelled home with a well earned point. This looks like it could be full of more goals.

Team News

Leicester City are expected to recall N’Golo Kante, Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez to the side after all three started Wednesday’s FA Cup game on the bench. Matty James could return to the bench after recovering from his serious ACL injury.

Stoke City look set to be without Geoff Cameron (ankle), while Xherdan Shaqiri is pushing to be fit after a hamstring injury has forced him to miss the last few matches.

Key Points

Leicester City’s last five: L/D/D/W/D

Stoke City’s last five: W/W/L/W/D

Key Stat: Leicester haven’t beaten Stoke at home since 2006.

Key Player: N’Golo Kante – The Frenchman has had a very impressive debut season in England following his summer switch from Caen. With vital tackles and his composure on the ball, he has been one of the league’s best midfielders this term. With Stoke’s endless energy, he will need to be switched on to get the Foxes back on top.

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Score Prediction

Leicester City 2-0 Stoke City – The Tinkerman will almost have a fully fit squad for the visit of Stoke, and so a crack of the whip on his team selection is likely, in order to maintain their focus on staying in the top four. Stoke offer so much going forward with the quality in their ranks but Leicester need this win before three very tough fixtures.

Premier League Preview and Prediction: Norwich City vs Liverpool

Competition: Premier League – Norwich City vs. Liverpool

Venue: Carrow Road – Saturday, January 23 – 12:45 GMT (07:45 ET)

Match Odds: Norwich City 3/1 – Draw 5/2 – Liverpool 13/5

Match Preview

Norwich City welcome Liverpool to Carrow Road in Saturday’s early Premier League kick off, in which three points are vital for both teams.

Norwich return back to East Anglia after back-to-back defeats to Stoke City and Bournemouth. They conceded six goals in those two fixtures and need to shore up defensively now.

Manager, Alex Neil has been busy in the last few days with the signings of Scotland international Steven Naismith, Swiss centre-back Timm Klose and Ivan Pinto from Dynamo Zagreb joining to try and help maintain the Canaries’ Premier League status.

As we said in this week’s Podcast, Steven Naismith’s signing could prove valuable for the club with his goals and experience. Five more wins this season could keep them up, and with nine fixtures to play at home, Norwich will hope they can rely on home comforts to see them through.

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Liverpool have been very inconsistent this term and are sitting in ninth place in the Premier League, with no win in three league matches. The latest being the 1-0 defeat at Anfield to Manchester United last Sunday.

A win over Exeter City in the FA Cup third round replay on Wednesday might have put some confidence back into the Reds, and Klopp ensured several first-team players were rested for that tie.

The German manager has plenty of injury worries that don’t seem to want to go away, with several first-team players out with injuries for extended periods of time. But one positive is that Jon Flanagan has returned after 18 months out.

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The reverse fixture saw Norwich take a point at Anfield with a 1-1 draw back in September and the Canaries will be desperate to go one better this time around.

Team News

Norwich have no fresh injury concerns ahead of the game but Gary O’Neil will continue to serve his suspension after his red card against Stoke City.

Liverpool have a whole host of injuries as Divock Origi (knee), Philippe Coutinho (hamstring), Dejan Lovren (hamstring), Martin Skrtel (hamstring), Danny Ings (ACL), Joe Gomez (ACL) and Daniel Sturridge (hip) are all still sidelined

Key Points

Norwich City’s last five: L/W/W/L/L

Liverpool’s last five: W/W/L/D/L

Key Stat: Liverpool last lost at Carrow Road in May 1993.

Key Player: Wes Hoolahan – The Irish playmaker will want to add to his impressive tally of six assists for the season. With Steven Naismith expected to play some part, Norwich fans will be hoping they strike up a formidable partnership to propel them up the table.

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Score Prediction

Norwich City 1-1 Liverpool – This one has draw written all over it. An impressive draw at Anfield for Norwich earlier in the season will give them belief. The Reds played in the week and Norwich have had that extra rest, so they will fancy their chances. But Liverpool will still be hard to beat. There might not be many goals but a score draw looks likely.