Something is definitely rumbling in San Jose. With two wins already in the bag, the Quakes 2.0 are above .500 for the first time since their rebirth in 2008, and they’re staring down a winnable matchup against struggling Chivas USA squad on Saturday night at the Home Depot Center.
This week Dan Margarit takes to MLSsoccer.com’s Soap Box from his post atop the 1906 Ultras, the Earthquakes’ passionate supporters group trying to making the seismic shift towards optimism in 2010.
MLSsoccer.com: We’ve heard a lot of talk about the young talent and the depth in San Jose this season. You’re buying it?
DW: There was a lot of talk, both positive and negative about the team, the players and the management. We were kind of confused, we didn’t know what to think of the team. And you can’t forget the home opener, when we played some bad soccer and we lost badly to Real Salt Lake. At this point, we don’t know what to expect, but we’ve showed some improvement over the last few games with some rookies. They’re turning out to be pretty good players. It’s early in the season, but you have to say we have some potential this year.
MLSsoccer.com: When the Quakes lost that home opener 3-0 to Real Salt Lake, were you thinking: “Here we go again?”
DW: Exactly. We’re used to winning. We won championships with some great players before the team went to Houston, and we understood when the team came back in 2008, we weren’t just going to jump into a winning season. We understood that, but for the last two years we didn’t know if we were going to get better. We had some good results in the preseason and we got some wins against some pretty decent second teams in England, so we were very hopeful about the home opener. And then we went in, and the way we lost that home opener was painful to watch. It was tough.
MLSsoccer.com: Are Quakes fans still restless about getting back to the way things used to be?
DW: Definitely. What we need for this team and this community to build a new stadium is to get some good results on the field. There’s not a whole lot of PR or marketing for the team, so we need some results to get our fans back. San Jose has a pretty knowledgeable fan base, and people do care about results. The fans do come when we have a winning team, so hopefully if we have a winning team we can get some of those fans back that we lost.
MLSsoccer.com: What’s the buzz around the team like in San Jose this season?
DW: I think it’s a little better this year, but there hasn’t been a lot of buzz in the last two years. And I think that’s because we’re playing in a 10,000 –seat stadium, and it’s almost a sellout every game. And it would be foolish for them to spend millions of dollars to market the team. What’s the benefit? Maybe 200 more fans per game? We’ll get a bunch more sellouts this season and that will prove to the ownership that we’re supportive fans, but we’re waiting for a new stadium. And until we see shovels in the ground, all we can say is that we’re hopeful it’ll happen someday.
MLSsoccer.com: On the field, is Ike Opara the savior of the team? Is he Rookie of the Year?
DW: It’s early to say, but it looks like it. He plays very mature for his age, and he shows a lot of potential. He’s pretty much a diamond in the rough. He makes some mistakes, but it looks like with good coaching on his side, he can correct them.
MLSsoccer.com: Is there anyone else who we should be on the lookout for?
DW: Omar Jasseh, the kid from Gambia. We saw him playing in the Open Cup game last week and he showed a lot of potential. Once again, with these types of players we need to patient with them, because they need really good coaching. Not just strategy, but psychologically.
MLSsoccer.com: What did you make of the Jon Busch pickup? Was that asking for controversy?
DW: At first we were afraid they wanted to let Joe (Cannon) go, or if Joe wanted to leave us. Joe’s probably the symbol for the whole team, he’s a legend for us. But knowing that he has some competition behind him, I think it was a good move for Joe. And at some point, if some other team wants another goalie and we have Busch, maybe we can get something for him in a trade. Busch is a good goalie. I thought it was a good move.
MLSsoccer.com: Have your fans thought about what kind of DP would fit in at San Jose?
DW: So many organizations in MLS sign a Designated Player so they can bring fans into the stands, and maybe not so much for what they can do on the field. But the DP isn’t a solution for us to sell out the stadium because we’re almost doing that right now anyway. It doesn’t make sense for us to spend $15 or $20 million a year on salary for some huge-name players. On the field, we have a bunch of rookies and we have some experienced players. If our coaching staff can put these guys together, I don’t think we need a DP.
MLSsoccer.com: What’s going to happen at Chivas USA on Saturday night?
DW: I feel good about it. They’re in bad form with a new coach, and we have some momentum. Our win against New England was a solid one. The Chicago win was controversial and some people were saying we got lucky. But the New England win, there was nothing so say about it. We played solid. I think we go into Chivas and we keep our momentum going.