FEATURE: Who will make the jump for San Jose in 2020?

Andy Rios - Goal - 2019 - San Jose Earthquakes

The fact that the San Jose Earthquakes rose from the depths of the Major League Soccer standings in 2018 to within a game of the playoffs in 2019 is well documented. This is made even more noteworthy given only 20% of field-player minutes were given to newcomers this past season.

Obviously, the additions of key players like Cristian Espinoza and Judson – both of which are returning on permanent transfers – made an impact on the club, but much of the rise can be attributed to holdover players taking a big step forward in 2019.

Jackson Yueill, still only 22, went from talented-but-unproven prospect to bona fide starter. He made more starts in 2019 (29) than he did in 2017 and 2018 combined (25). He also forced his way into a U.S. National Team camp and is now viewed as a potential starter during their run to the 2022 FIFA World Cup.

Tommy Thompson, the club’s first-ever Homegrown signing, was another player that saw his stock skyrocket under Matias Almeyda. An attacking midfielder by trade, Thompson was converted to right back in a shock preseason move and ultimately made 28 starts in 2019. Thompson made 35 starts over the previous four seasons combined.

Fans also witnessed Magnus Eriksson experience a resurgence. While his appearances, starts and minutes played didn’t drastically change from one year to the next, Eriksson was much more influential than in 2018. He finished with the same amount of goals (6), but saw his assists jump from three to 10. Eriksson was almost unfairly overshadowed by Cristian Espinoza, and the Swede actually scored or assisted more goals (16) than his Argentine counterpart (15) in 2019.

For the Earthquakes to see another move up the MLS table this year, especially with few roster changes, they’ll need similar improvements from other players. Here are a few that could step up in 2020:

Carlos Fierro

Fierro’s acquisition in the summer was met with a good amount of fanfare, as the now 25-year-old winger had compiled a list of youth national team and club accomplishments in Mexico. Competing outside of his home country for the first time, Fierro didn’t seem to adjust as smoothly as the Quakes would have hoped, but there is significant reason to believe a full preseason can change that heading into 2020.

Andy Rios

Rios, like Fierro, was faced with the tough challenge of joining the Quakes midseason. The pace of play, extensive travel demands, and other factors can make MLS tough to adjust to for foreigners. He scored a sweet goal against Vancouver and seemed to fit in well with the team, but he’ll certainly need to contribute more goals in 2020 if San Jose is to compete in the Western Conference.

Danny Hoesen

Entering his fourth season with the Earthquakes, Hoesen will surely be looking to rebound from a relatively quiet year in 2019. A proven, dangerous and versatile striker, Hoesen already ranks seventh in Quakes history with 22 goals, more than half of which came in 2018 (12). Due to Wondolowski’s 15-goal season, Hoesen found extensive playing time hard to come by and made just 12 starts, while playing fewer than 1,500 minutes for the first time in San Jose. He still found a way to make an impact on the scoresheet, scoring five goals and three game-winners.

Nick Lima

In 2019, Nick Lima had an incredibly similar year statistically to his dazzling rookie season of 2017. But after losing his spot at right back to Thompson and spending most of the season at left back trying to fend off 19-year-old Marcos Lopez, it just didn’t feel the same as expectations had surged for the national team defender.


Assuming Thompson does enough in preseason to keep his spot at right back, Lima will head into 2020 with a year under his belt on the left side of the team’s defense. He is a fan favorite and his return to peak form could lift the Quakes on and off the field.


Vako didn’t necessarily have a down season in 2019, tallying eight goals and five assists, but the summer months showed what he’s truly capable of. From June 26 to Aug. 10, a span of nine games, Vako had seven goals and two assists while helping the Quakes to a 6-2-1 record. He was selected to the MLS Team of the Week four times and won Player of the Week once. ESPN’s Taylor Twellman even commented that he was playing at an MVP level. Unfortunately, as the weather cooled, so did Vako’s scoring, as he failed to tally in his final 10 appearances. If summer 2019 Vako plays that way all season, expect the Quakes to surge forward offensively.