Earthquakes

Earthquakes aim for playoff return in 2012

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Earthquakes aim for playoff return in 2012

Programming note: Watch Saturday night's season opener at 7:30 p.m. on Comcast SportsNet California.

SAN JOSE (AP) -- Hiring an unproven coach and installing a new system has the New England Revolution living up to their nickname.

A slew of changes and a milestone ruling have the San Jose Earthquakes feeling confident.

Jay Heaps looks to win his coaching debut and prove the Revolution's solid preseason is a sign of things to come Saturday night when they visit the Earthquakes to open the MLS season.

New England finished at the bottom of the Eastern Conference last season with a 5-16-13 record, failing to reach the playoffs for a second consecutive year. That was enough to cost coach Steve Nicol his job after 10 seasons.

RELATED: Earthquakes stats roster schedule

With the Revs in the midst of a rebuilding project, they opted to hire Heaps, the club's television analyst for two years after spending 11 as a rugged, stalwart defender -- nine with New England.

The stunning hire was followed by an equally surprising change; the Revolution would be altering their system to a more possession-based one to encourage offensive play.

The style showed promise during preseason, as New England won three of four games (3-0-1), outscoring 2011 MLS Cup champion Los Angeles, New York and Salt Lake by a combined 7-3 in those victories.

"At times, it's been very positive," Heaps told the team's official website. "We've shown that we have players on the field who, when they have the ball at their feet, can change the game and that's what we really want to create.

"We also have good, strong, athletic players who can also get in behind. So we want to have kind of a one-two punch where we keep possession and we wear teams down, but then have the ability to get behind them."

One of those players is Saer Sene, a French forward who was has size (6-foot-3) and speed. He spent nearly three years with Germany's Bayern Munich, but was limited to playing for the reserve team. However, he had 19 goals in 55 matches.

"He's a great striker of the ball," Heaps said. "Now, (the question) is going to be can we spring him? Can we get him in dangerous areas?"

That task will be up to a midfield that stars captain Shalrie Joseph, U.S. international Benny Feilhaber and 20-year-old Kelyn Rowe, the third overall selection in January's SuperDraft.

Rowe, who left UCLA two years early, has been used in offensive-minded roles with various U.S. youth national teams.

"We're so excited and so looking forward to Saturday night," Joseph said. "Even though it's on the road, it feels good just getting our season started. Everybody's just ready to get that first kick in and get a win on the road."

The changes could help New England, which went 1-9-7 on the road last season. The team is 1-6-2 in its last nine visits to San Jose.

The Earthquakes are also looking to capitalize on changes, as they enter 2012 looking to return to the playoffs after going 8-12-14 last season.

They added midfielders Marvin Chavez, Tressor Moreno and rookie Sam Garza along with defender Victor Bernardez to a roster that already boasts Chris Wondolowski, who has totaled 34 goals over the last two seasons.

"We brought in some great guys, especially offensively, and I think that's really going to help produce (goals) and be very dangerous in the attack," Wondolowski told the team's official website. "I know other guys are going to be scoring a lot, but I think goal totals in general -- and general play for us -- will improve."

Wondolowski has three goals in the last four meetings with New England, including both in a 2-1 road victory Oct. 8.

The Quakes' optimism may also stem from last month's unanimous vote by the San Jose Planning Commission that approved the building of a new stadium.

Quakes crushed in Vancouver, eliminated from MLS Cup Playoffs

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Quakes crushed in Vancouver, eliminated from MLS Cup Playoffs

BOX SCORE

The San Jose Earthquakes' season is over, after the Vancouver Whitecaps beat San Jose 5-0 in the knockout round of the MLS Cup Playoffs on Tuesday night. 

Fredy Montero opened the scoring for the Whitecaps in the 33rd minute. In the second half, Cristian Tecera and Kendall Watson scored seven minutes apart and all but sealed the hosts' first-ever playoff win. Second half substitute Nicolas Mezquida scored a brace for good measure, with two goals in 78th and 80th minute. 

Earthquakes captain Chris Wondolowski was held off of the scoresheet for his fourth consecutive playoff game. The 34-year-old scored one goal in six career postseason appearances. 

Tuesday marked San Jose's first postseason appearance since 2012. The Earthquakes have not advanced past the quarterfinals of the MLS Cup Playoffs since 2010.

Earthquakes come into MLS Playoffs as clear underdogs in Vancouver

Earthquakes come into MLS Playoffs as clear underdogs in Vancouver

VANCOUVER, British Columbia -- Carl Robinson was talking about the need to rely on key veterans in a playoff game.

And then the Vancouver coach all but confirmed that he will replace two long-time standouts on Wednesday in the Whitecaps' Major League Soccer knockout-round playoff game against the San Jose Earthquakes.

One -- left fullback Jordan Harvey, the longest-serving Whitecap -- definitely will not start. Instead, Marcel de Jong, who has been deployed mainly as a utility player on the back line and in midfield, will get the call.

"Marcel has played very well for the last three games he's played, and so has Jordan, but for this matchup, Marcel will play," Robinson said after a practice Tuesday at the club's University of British Columbia training facility.

Harvey, a 33-year-old Mission Viejo, Calif., native, has rarely taken a night off since joining the Whitecaps in a trade from Philadelphia in Vancouver's inaugural MLS season in 2011.

De Jong, a 31-year-old Newmarket, Ontario, native who plays internationally for Canada, got into only 13 games during the regular season and just seven in 2016 after joining the club in midseason from Ottawa of the second-tier North American Soccer League.

Meanwhile, Stefan Marinovic, a 24-year-old New Zealand international, is expected to start in goal as David Ousted, a 31-year-old Dane who has been the team's heavily used starter since his arrival in mid-2013, watches for the fourth time in the past five games.

Marinovic has a modest 2-2-1 record with one shutout.

"It's no gamble at all," Robinson said of changing goalies. "Stef's a top-class goalkeeper. We know that.

"I'm a very lucky manager in this league in that I've got two very good goalkeepers. Stef's come in and, in the games he's played, he's been exceptional. I need him to make saves at big times. (Ousted) has done that throughout the first two-thirds of the season. Stef has now taken charge."

The Wednesday contest marks the time for the Whitecaps to take charge of their postseason fortunes after they squandered a chance to finish first in the Western Conference and dropped to third thanks to a draw with the Earthquakes two weeks ago and a loss to the Portland Timbers last weekend.

Vancouver (15-12-7) has never won a playoff game in its MLS existence.

The winner of Wednesday's contest will play a two-game, total-goals series against either first-place Portland or the second-place Seattle Sounders.

The Earthquakes, who grabbed the sixth and final playoff berth in the West with a 13-14-7 mark, are clear underdogs. However, Vancouver captain Kendall Waston downplayed the apparent pressure on his team, which was a modest 1-3-1 in its last five regular-season games.

"Pressure, for me, is (not having) money to go buy milk for my son," Waston said. "This is trying to be (as) responsible as we can. We have to look at this match as the others, but the thing is, if we lose, we have to go home -- and we (don't) want to go home."

Vancouver's top scorer, Fredy Montero, said he is ready to play a full game after being used as a substitute in Portland due to a minor injury.

Meanwhile, the Earthquakes will try to continue to rebound from a 6-6-5 start that cost former coach Dominic Kinnear his job. Replacement Chris Leitch saw the team endure some fits and starts, but the Earthquakes managed to get into the playoffs after Marco Urena, a teammate of Waston on Costa Rica's national team, scored the last-minute winner over Minnesota United last weekend.

"I always shine in these important moments," Urena said afterward. "God chose me (for such times.)"

The Earthquakes might need some divine intervention after allowing 21 more goals than they scored during the regular season. Even so, they have one of the all-time best MLS players in Chris Wondolowski, who assisted on the winner and also scored last weekend, earning MLS player of the week honors.

"Legitimately one of the hardest things I had to do in my life," Wondolowski, who loves to shoot, said about passing on the winning goal.

Wondolowski, who is tied for second on the MLS all-time scoring list with Jeff Cunningham at 134 goals, said it has been a "look-in-the mirror-and-see-what-you're-made-of season," for the Quakes, who made several midseason roster changes.