Earthquakes

Convey, Quakes parting ways unhappily

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Convey, Quakes parting ways unhappily

SANTA CLARA The man largely responsible for the Earthquakes first and only playoff win since their 2008 return to the Bay Area has said he will leave the team following the 2011 season. Bobby Convey, whose 10 regular season assists in 2010, plus a memorable two goal, one assist performance in a 3-1 victory over the New York Red Bulls in the 2010 playoffs that propelled the Earthquakes to their best finish since rejoining the league, told reporters at practice on Thursday that he will 100 not be returning to the team. I will not be back, Convey, who signed a three-year deal starting in 2009 with an option for a fourth, said. The offer that I was given was completely unacceptable, so its just not going to happen.

Head coach Frank Yallop didnt say outright whether Convey would return, indicating that there would be meetings following the end of the season to finalize things, but did tell reporters, Youll know soon enough what were doing. Chances are probably not. Conveys form in 2011 did not quite live up to the bar he set from 2010, and the left-sided player claimed that he was told his option would not be picked up and that if he was to stay, it would have to be on a lower deal. Earthquakes general manager John Doyle declined to comment when asked to confirm if that was the case. I would love to come back, but I was offered like, as 75 pay cut or something, Convey said. It was just like, really? Convey, who had a team-high guaranteed compensation of 336,000 in 2011 (nearly double that of any other player on the roster), mustered just a goal and two assists over the season, though he often found himself playing in the left back position, instead of his preferred left wing position further up the field. He would make the 2011 All-Star Team as a left back. However Convey revealed that his concerns about his situation in San Jose started well before his All-Star selection. He explained that he was excited to follow up on the teams commendable showing in 2010, but the team seemed to have a different view of things. I was so excited to come back after last season, I think we all were, he said, adding that things went downhill for him from there. Everyone was calling each other, excited to get back and then when I came the first month, I was told that I was faking my injury because I didnt want to do preseason, so that was a good start, he said, with a touch of sarcasm. However, there was a much more pressing issue weighing in on Conveys mind at the time during the offseason, he learned that his wife Sloane, 26, had been diagnosed with thyroid cancer. Though Convey says she is nearly in the clear after undergoing surgery to remove the tumor, it naturally caused him a great deal of trouble in the beginning of the season. That was more important to me than anything else, he said. So I was sleeping at the hospital then coming out to practice and the games. I probably slept a couple hours a day in the first week or two. Following the start of the season, Convey was shifted around the field by Yallop to fill the Earthquakes various positional needs, but then was dropped from the lineup for the teams trip to Philadelphia, Conveys hometown. Im happy to do that because I can play the positions, but then I went to my hometown in Philadelphia, I was on the bench, I was not said a word, no one said a word to me, Convey revealed. Nothing. I had no idea. Convey would sit for the next few games, but was then drafted in at left back following Ramiro Corrales struggles in late May and early June. I was asked to play left back, which I didnt necessarily want to do because after last season, having such a good season offensively, and we were struggling to score goals I wanted to push forward and try to create and make something happen, Convey said. Then I was criticized for that, I was told that I was undermining the coach because I didnt want to play left back, he said, though he never went on the record as expressing displeasure with where he was being played. It was around then that he was told that the team would not be picking up his option. At that time I was told my option wasnt going to be picked up unless I scored 30 goals, so how can I 30 goals from left back?, he said, adding that he was getting paid a high salary, but not being given the opportunity to justify by playing further forward. Thats why I didnt really want to play left back because I didnt really make too much of a difference to justify my salary, he added. Now the reason why Im not coming back is because they cant pay my salary, but how am I supposed to expletive justify my salary? Convey hasnt played for the Earthquakes since an Aug. 27 start in the teams 1-1 draw at Toronto FC. The player claimed at that time, there had been a discussion about him taking a pay cut instead of having his option declined. He also claimed he had not been told by Yallop or anyone else why he was not playing. The way Ive been treated has been extremely disrespectful, he said. I didnt want to be the highest-paid player sitting on the bench, thats not my personality, Convey said. I work too hard for that, and it was eye-opening, how I was really looked at here. It doesnt matter Ive been in the All-Star Game the last two seasons, it doesnt matter about anything Ive done. Yallop, however, claimed Conveys exclusion from the team was simply based on the fact that other players had been coming in and playing well. While the team had put in some positive performances, it won just twice in the seven games since Convey was dropped. Its up to me to pick the team and thats it, Yallop said. Hes not in the team because the teams played well. Thats it, thats the only reason. Our two wide guys have been I think good, thats the only reason. While Convey was excited to face a new challenge at a new team and he claimed to have a number of suitors around MLS he indicated that he was still sad to be leaving because of the relationships he built with his teammates. I love my teammates, Convey said. My wife is friends with their wives, I enjoyed living here, our fans are great we do have very good fans hopefully they can get a stadium. Conveys absence will certainly free up a large chunk of salary space, and speculation on the 2012 roster will continue to grow ahead of the Expansion Draft, set for the week after the MLS Cup in late November, where the Earthquakes could lose a player to the expansion Montreal Impact. Ten players can be protected, but right now, the only certain absence is Convey.For more Earthquakes, MLS and world soccer chatter, you can follow Nick Rosano on Twitter: @nicholasrosano

A heartfelt thank you to former Quakes defender Victor Bernardez

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A heartfelt thank you to former Quakes defender Victor Bernardez

This week, the San Jose Earthquakes announced they would not be bringing back Victor Bernardez next year. 

For most people, this news barely registered on their radar, if at all.  For me, it is the end of the line for one of my favorite players, on my favorite team.

Who was Victor Bernardez?  He was an attacking central defender for the Quakes.  When he played, he constantly made you wonder if he was being overly aggressive, or out of control.  My heart would skip a beat when he would dive in on a tackle, and more often than not, he would come away having made an amazing play.

The first thing that stands out physically about Victor is his strength.  He’s like a bull or an angry rhinoceros -- he played fearlessly and with passion.  I constantly underestimated his offensive abilities.  I can’t count how many times it would look like he was just kicking the ball wildly to clear it, and it was actually a long pass in a perfect place for a counter attack to start.  Through some of the lean years, Victor’s long balls started many of the team's best offensive chances.

He was a relentless player who provided me some of my happiest moments as a fan.  I can clearly remember how despondent I was and how happy I ended up being at the 2012 California Classico at Stanford Stadium.  I had organized a trip for my kid’s soccer club and had over 200 people in our group.  For many, it was their first time to an Earthquakes game.  I wanted them to love the Quakes as much as I did.  Steven Lenhart scored an early goal (and did some pull ups on the goal). Then David Beckham scored, Jason Hernandez scored an own goal, and Landon Donovan put Galaxy up 3-1 in the 41st minute after a misplay by the Quakes defense. 

We were sitting in the end zone, pretty close to the Galaxy supporters group, and I was dreading things would get worse for my boys in the black and blue.  Then, in the 44th minute, Big Vic scored his first MLS goal on a swinging redirect off a Marvin Chavez corner kick, the likes of which I don’t think I’ve seen before or since.  It changed the whole outlook of the match.  Chris Wondolowski capped off the comeback with his unforgettable whirling, back-to-the-goal finish for the game winner.

I won’t forget the free-kick goal Victor scored that same year against Chivas where he took about 14 steps before he shot the ball around a 3-man wall and into the corner of the goal.  Nor will I forget the same approach he took when an opponent try to discourage him from a restart after a foul and stood about 3 yards from the ball.  Instead of asking the referee for 10 yards, he ran up and drilled the guy with the ball.  It deflected out of play for a throw-in and Victor had made his point. I don’t remember an opponent ever taking that same tact with him around.

Victor was listed as six-foot-two, but I was fortunate enough to share an elevator with him once.  I’m 5’10” and all I can think is that they measured him while wearing his longest studs on his cleats.  The truth is, while on the field, he played like he was six-foot-two -- and with the ferocity of lion. 

It was pretty clear this season that the club did not have plans for a 36-year-old center to come back in 2018.  In the middle portion of the season, other players found themselves where Victor had been a constant for years on the back line.  One of the things I am most grateful for is that Victor got a chance to be an impactful player on the run to the playoffs.  His passion for the club, and the game, shone bright.  His aggressive play in the September 30th must-win 2-1 victory over Portland showed the team how it needed to play if it was going to make the playoffs.  In spite of having trouble keeping up with speedster attackers, he was able to shore up a defense that ended the season -21 in goal differential, and get them into the playoffs for the first time since 2012.

There are other ways Victor has impacted my life.  He made me care about the country of Honduras, and how their national team is doing.  I openly cheered for a man nicknamed “Muma”.  I have no idea what it means, but it just sounds cool and makes me feel closer to him, even though our paths have rarely crossed.  He showed me how to be ready for when my number is called after feeling left out for a while.  He exemplified so many of the great things about the game and were a part of my growing love for the sport.  Most importantly, he showed me what can happen if a person puts their heart and soul into their craft, and complements it with humility, humor, and love.

Victor, I wish you well in whatever lies ahead.  Thank you for all the wonderful memories you provided me and my family as we got to watch you ply your trade.

Joe Washington is the senior coordinating producer for NBC Sports Bay Area/California  -- and a lifelong Quakes fan 

Why Quakes' hiring of Stahre is surprising, but not shocking at the same time

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Why Quakes' hiring of Stahre is surprising, but not shocking at the same time

When the San Jose Earthquakes named Chris Leitch their head coach around the halfway point of last season, the biggest question wasn’t why, it was why not — as in, why not assign him the interim tag most people hired during the middle of a year get?

At the time, general manager Jesse Fioranelli's sans-interim approach was the GM saying that not only was the label not necessary and that Leitch was the in-house solution the Quakes needed to end a playoff drought going on five seasons but also that he was the right person to guide the team into a brighter future. 

And so that vote of confidence, coupled with Leitch guiding the Earthquakes to their first playoff appearance since 2012, plus the lack of an official announcement by the team that a coaching search was underway makes Friday’s hiring of Mikael Stahre a bit eye-popping and provides no clear-cut answer to what happened behind closed doors when the Quakes came back from Vancouver following a brutal exit from the postseason. 

Rumors began swirling midway through the week that Fioranelli had Stahre, the front man over at Sweden’s BK Hacken, in his sights. And there are those people who would argue the writing was on the wall for Leitch given the team’s inconsistent play — especially on the road. But were it not for some ambiguous, less-than-reassuring endorsements of Leitch following the 5-0 playoff loss that left the door open for just about anything, there are others who would say that Friday’s hiring of Stahre was completely out of left field. 

If anything, it appears Fioranelli, who Quakes fans knew very little about when he was hired as the GM back in January, is continuing a precedent that he’ll pull any trigger at any time. 

Whether Fioranelli’s decision to hire the Swedish head coach is the right thing to do is yet to be seen, obviously. Stahre built his name in Sweden, rising from the junior ranks to the front of a first team that last year jumped six spots in the standings. It’s one of many coaching statistics San Jose lists to try and assure fans they’re getting a true soccer mind for the job in Stahre. 

Fioranelli and team President Tom Fox are saying all the right things to welcome Stahre into the fold, mentioning his ability to relate to players — who reportedly gave Stahre glowing endorsements — as a key reason why he was ultimately chosen to lead the Quakes (read between the lines what you will there given the rumored-sour and still-unofficial departures of former Quakes mainstays Simon Dawkins, Cordell Cato and David Bingham once Leitch took over). 

Moreover, Fioranelli reiterated some of the points in the team’s press release during a conference call Friday afternoon. He mentioned that Leitch would stay on as the team’s technical director — the role he had before becoming the head coach and that the club’s decision to relieve him of the head coaching job had nothing to do with where the club was coming from (read: playoffs) but more so where they wanted to go moving forward (read: as of right now, unclear). Fioranelli said the search was extensive and that Stahre was one of three finalists for the job — including one from South America. He again pointed out that Stahre’s values align with those of the club and he’s a man his former players vouch for.

So, at least at first glance, San Jose is doing its best to make pretty and tie a bow around what was at-a-minimum an awkward firing of Dominic Kinnear and hiring of a man in Leitch who did just enough to justify the change but not enough to warrant extending Fioranelli’s experiment any longer. 

Only time will tell exactly what Fioranelli is creating over at Avaya Stadium.