Crashing out of the MLS Cup playoffs to your biggest rival is never going to go over well, but even in the aftermath of the San Jose Earthquakes 3-2 aggregate loss to the LA Galaxy in the Western Conference Semifinals, there remains so much for the team and its supporters to be proud of.
First and foremost, the Earthquakes finished the regular season with the best record in the league and earned the Supporters’ Shield – their second such award in franchise history. Now, without a doubt, winning MLS Cup would have provided a crowning achievement to the season, but such knockout tournaments like the playoffs are rife with uncertainty, and the loss to the Galaxy should not overshadow what was arguably the most successful year for soccer seen in San Jose.
The Supporters’ Shield certainly serves as the emblem for the Earthquakes amazing season, and the many accomplishments along the way lend credence to the club’s amazing run. How amazing? Consider the following list of achievements and milestones that were the hallmarks of Earthquakes 2012 season.
- The Quakes finished the regular season with a 19-6-9 record and amassed a total of 66 points over their 34 game schedule. Only in the 1999 season did the team notch as many wins, and the points total surpassed the previous high water mark of 64 points dating back to 2005.
- By virtue of earning the Supporters’ Shield, San Jose secured a berth in the 2013/14 CONCACAF Champions League. This continental tournament has rapidly gained a reputation as the premier club competition outside of MLS play, and is set to start next summer. The big prize: the team that wins the annual CCL advances to play in the FIFA Club World Cup against the confederation champions.
- San Jose set a new franchise record for goals scored in 2012 with 72 net-busters during the regular season – the third highest total in MLS history and the most since DC United scored 74 in 1998. The forward trio of Chris Wondolowski (27), Alan Gordon (13), and Steven Lenhart (10) combined with 50 of those goals – the first season since 1997 that the team featured three players each with double-digit tallies. Over the 34 game season, the Earthquakes averaged over 2.1 goals per game – and an astonishing 2.5 goals per game at home.
- On the issue of fine home cooking, 2012 marked a near-perfect home record for the Earthquakes, with Buck Shaw Stadium proving to be a fortress over 15 regular season matches. The endless string of “Never-Say-Die” results energized the fan base to levels never before seen at The Buck. The players fed off that atmosphere and delivered a facility record 10 wins at their home stadium.
- Hey you guys! Did someone mention comebacks? From what started back in April when the Earthquakes defeated RSL behind a Dawkins stoppage time winner, San Jose recorded a remarkable 9 goals after the 90th minute of games. 5 times the Quakes left the field with wins following those late game heroics. Blond-haired bedlam against the Chicago Fire, as Lenhart notched a very late game tying goal, will be an occasion Quakes fans will never forget. This San Jose team saw adversity as an opportunity, and they rode their comeback ways to unprecedented heights in 2012.
- Speaking of excellence, Wondolowski’s offensive season will go down as the best in club history and possibly even league history as well. His 27 goals matched the long-time record of Roy Lassiter for most goals in a season and earned Wondo his second Budweiser Golden Boot award as the league’s top scorer. Looking back at his combined scoring total since 2010, Wondolowski becomes the first player in MLS history to score over 60 goals in three consecutive seasons. Wondo in 2012 was simply wonderful.
- On the awards front, the aforementioned Wondolowski cruised to an unprecedented four MLS Player of the Month awards and is currently the frontrunner to win the 2012 Volkswagen MLS MVP award on November 29. Other top candidates for end-of-season awards are head coach Frank Yallop for Coach of the Year and Victor Bernardez as Defender of the Year and Newcomer of the Year. Finally, Wondo and Bernardez, as well as Steven Beitashour, have a good chance of being named to the MLS Best XI.
- The players often spoke about how they loved each other and always fought for each other during this successful season. Those efforts led to a historical number of participants in the MLS All-Star game at midseason as Wondolowski, Beitashour, Justin Morrow, Ramiro Corrales were all named to the first team and Jon Busch and Marvin Chavez were named to the inactive roster. The Earthquakes All-Stars were instrumental in helping MLS earn a memorable 3-2 win against European Champions Chelsea F.C.
- In addition to the record number of San Jose All-Stars, the success of the club also garnered elevated opportunities for players at the international level. Wondolowski was named to the U.S. Men’s National Team twice during the season, and teammates Beitashour and Gordon earned first time invitations – and Gordon earned his first cap in a thrilling 2-1 World Cup qualifying victory over Antigua and Barbuda in October. Outside the U.S. set-up, Honduras made regular use of Bernardez and Chavez in their run to the CONCACAF Hexagonal and Haiti utilized the efforts of Jean-Marc Alexandre in matches throughout the year.
- Lastly, one of the most important stories of the season did not take place on the field, but rather on what will eventually be a new field at the epicenter for San Jose soccer. Following a passionate February planning commission meeting when the club cleared the last hurdle in their quest to build a new stadium, the Earthquakes celebrated a world-record breaking groundbreaking ceremony on the site where the crown jewel of Bay Area soccer will soon rise. More than 6000 fans, using commemorative blue shovels commissioned just for the occasion, turned dirt on the actual piece of land where starting in 2014 the Earthquakes players will continue their winning ways. “Build it now” has become a reality in San Jose, and the future for the club has never looked brighter.