It's been three years since the San Jose Earthquakes have been in the MLS playoffs. But after a year of growing pains under manager Dominic Kinnear, the Quakes hope to break that streak in the year two at the brand new Avaya Stadium.
1. Simon Dawkins is back
The 28-year-old midfielder signed a Designated Player contract in January, boosting their roster with a known quantity. Dawkins spent two seasons on loan with the Quakes in 2011 to 2012, when he played a huge role in helping San Jose capture the 2012 Supporters' Shield. Dawkins will play a key role alongside striker Chris Wondolowski and and fellow midfielder Anibal Godoy as they look to get back among the league's elite like they were when he was last in San Jose.
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2. Playoffs or bust
Manager Dominic Kinnear said he believed his squad was a playoff team last season, despite not making the cut, so you can sure he believes the same this year. The roster is largely unchanged, with the biggest move coming in the addition of Dawkins. If the Quakes can avoid major injuries and are able to find an offensive rhythm with Dawkins back in the fold, it would be surprising if they don't make the playoffs in 2016. Of course, a brutal Western Conference means they have little room for error.
3. Who will partner with Chris Wondolowski?
San Jose have an incredible amount of talent and depth in the midfield for 2016, leaving some to speculate that Wondolowski may play as a long striker in front. But Kinnear isn't so sure about that â he believes Wondo is better with a partner and the manager has always favored two-striker formations anyway, but who will that second frontman be? Quincy Amarikwa and Innocent Emeghara are the top choices, but only time will tell which player will be the best fit with one of the most prolific scorers in MLS history.