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.

Earthquakes hand FC Dallas first loss of season, win 1-0

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USATSI

Earthquakes hand FC Dallas first loss of season, win 1-0

BOX SCORE

FRISCO, Texas -- Jahmir Hyka scored on a spectacular move in the 81st minute and the San Jose Earthquakes handed FC Dallas its first loss of the season, 1-0 on Saturday night.

Hyka took a pass from Marco Urena and touched the ball straight up over defender Matt Hedges as he raced by before putting the ball in off the post for his third goal.

David Bingham made three difficult saves for his fifth shutout, the 25th in his seven seasons with San Jose (5-4-4). The Earthquakes, who played Wednesday night, had just one win in their previous 12 road games and had been shutout six times and outscored by 13.

Hyka's goal also ended a string in which Chris Wondolowski had scored or assisted on the last seven Quakes goals.

Dallas (5-1-4) was unbeaten in its previous eight games with San Jose, outscoring the Quakes 12-4 with five clean sheets.

Dallas dominated most of the game with 62.3 percent possession and Jesse Gonzalez only made one save.

Late Wondolowski equalizer keeps Quakes unbeaten at home

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Late Wondolowski equalizer keeps Quakes unbeaten at home

It’s been a season of inconsistencies for the San Jose Earthquakes. But one thing that has been certain is that in San Jose, at Avaya Stadium, the Quakes are pretty close to unbeatable. 

And they continued that trend Wednesday night thanks in large part to Tommy Thompson and Chris Wondolowski, who combined for a goal in the game’s 83rd minute to salvage a 1-1 draw.

In six home matches, the Earthquakes are 3-0-3. 

The equalizer came less than three minutes after Carlos Rivas had put Orlando on top with a goal from inside the 18-yard box. 

But it was then that head coach Dominic Kinnear reached to his bench for Thompson. 

The late substitution paid off not too long after when a Jahmir Hyka corner found its way over to Thompson just outside the penalty area. The midfielder put the ball on frame and as it was going wide, Wondolowski was there to poke the ball home. 

The goal was the fifth of the season for Wondolowski. It was also Thompson’s first point for the big club since signing San Jose’s first ever Homegrown Player contract. 

David Bingham made a huge save on Brazilian international Kaka in stoppage time to keep the game drawn. 

Turning point: You have to look to Kinnear’s substitution in the 82nd minute that brought on Thompson. The midfielder is known for his creativity on the ball, but had yet to turn that into production for the Quakes since signing his contract. On Wednesday, his first point could not have come at a bigger time. Thompson’s first point came in his 57th game with the club.  

Man of the match: Bingham has played lights out at Avaya in 2017. And when the game opened up in the last 10 minutes, it was his save that kept on Kaka that preserved the unbeaten record at home and a much deserved point for the home squad.  

Injury update: Quakes fans got some bad news before the start of Wednesday’s game when the team announced Harold Cummings, a big offseason acquisition at center back, is out of the season. The Costa Rican international suffered a foot injury while in his San Jose home. The blow is huge for the Quakes, who are already thin defensively.

Booked: Orlando: Leo Pereira (yellow, 25’); San Jose: Anibal Godoy (yellow, 44’), Marco Ureña (yellow, 62’), Nick Lima (yellow, 68’), Darwin Ceren (yellow, 70’). 

Up next: The Earthquakes head to Texas to face FC Dallas on Saturday. While the Quakes are unbeaten at home, their fortunes change significantly on the road. They’ll try to turn that around against a tough Dallas team.