Last season did not go according to plan for the San Jose Earthquakes. In fact, whatever the plan was, finishing with the league’s smallest point total was most likely the polar opposite of the club’s preferred 2018 agenda.
After winning the season opener, the club got off to a slow start and never recovered. Until August they had beaten just one team, Minnesota United (twice). Things had to change, so the club went out and made an All-Star hire with Matias Almeyda as head coach.
A transformation is underway in San Jose.
“We spoke to Almeyda in the last training of the season, he came in with a lot of energy,” Danny Hoesen, Quakes 2018 leading scorer, said at MLS Media Day on Saturday. “He told us obviously a lot of things will change and have to change. He’s brought in new players, he said everyone has to come in fit. … We will work harder than last year.
“Almeyda has been a great player himself, I always think that helps,” Hoesen added. “He knows the environment, he knows what players need, what we have to do to win games. I think we’re moving in the right direction.”
Hoesen found the back of the net 12 times in 2018, though slowed down mightily as the season wore on, scoring just twice in his last 18 appearances (13 starts). It was his second season in the league after joining initially on loan from FC Groningen in 2017. He scored five goals 32 appearances (20 starts) in his first season and wants to continue that growth.
As such, Hoesen has a concrete personal target for goals next season as well as an abstract locker room objective.
“I always want to do better than the year before, so I want to score 12-plus goals and help the team,” Hoesen said. “I don’t think I’m a striker that only lives off goals, I want to help the team play well. I’ve got two years experience in MLS, I should be one of the leaders of this team.”
Even with a decent individual campaign last season, Hoesen called it the worst season of his career. But preseason is the time for optimism, so the 28-year-old in the mood for positivity.
“That’s the beauty of this sport,” Hoesen explained. “Every season, you start on zero points again and you have another shot.”
One constant from last season that will carry to San Jose’s 2019 campaign is league legend Chris Wondolowski and his chase for MLS’s all-time goals record. He sits one goal behind Landon Donovan’s record of 145.
“Wondo is a great guy, he’s done so much for this league and country,” Hoesen said. “If we can help him, we tried. We spoke about it but he’s so humble that he doesn’t speak about it himself. He’s still super fit, we all want the best for him to break this record with hopefully as many goals as possible. It won’t take long.”