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Western Conference Preview: San Jose Earthquakes

What can we expect in 2016 from the team that finished in 7th place in the West in 2015?

Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

The Earthquakes are ready to make the leap into the playoffs in 2016 after narrowly missing out in 2015. Every significant player is returning, providing stability that is crucial for MLS success.

Attacking midfielder Simon Dawkins returns to San Jose after a stint with Derby County, this time on a permanent transfer. He scored 14 goals in 53 appearances with the ‘Quakes in 2011 and 2012. He will be stationed on the left wing.

On the opposite wing will be pint-sized playmaker Matias Perez Garcia, entering his second year in San Jose. His first was disappointing due to moments of petulance and stupidity, like a red card for swatting Mauro Diaz in the head and a second yellow for removing his jersey after a goal. MPG also had a rough time acclimating to the physical demands of MLS, having been on the receiving end of 84 fouls, the third most in the league. Perez Garcia and coach Dominic Kinnear are aware of these issues and have been addressing them in the offseason.  General Manager John Doyle is adamant that Perez Garcia is committed to proving himself with the team this year.

Rookie sensation Fatai Alashe recently underwent hernia surgery and could miss a few weeks to start the season. Tommy Thompson is now entering his third season as a San Jose homegrown and is expected to make a significant leap this year after inconsistent moments of brilliance.

Forward Chris Wondolowski can be counted on to score double-digit goals once again. As he will likely be phased out of the US National Team this year, he might be able to stay in peak shape for his club team. Innocent Emeghara only played in 7 games last season due to knee surgery. His return should boost San Jose's goal total this year. Quincy Amarikwa, who scored 6 goals last season, will be in the rotation at forward.

The backline, which was quietly competent last season, returns intact. Experienced center backs Victor Bernardez and Clarence Goodson anchor the backline. David Bingham will be in his second year between the sticks for San Jose after an impressive first season and his first start for the US National Team. After making several significant errors early last season, Bingham is a year older and wiser.

Bottom Line: San Jose showed a lot of fight last year when they missed the playoffs by four points. With no significant turnover and the return of Simon Dawkins and Innocent Emeghara, San Jose has what it takes to make the playoffs.

Projected Strongest Lineup: