Can the San Jose Earthquakes make noise in the West?

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2014: Earthquakes finish last in the West, 20 points outside the playoffs.

2015: Earthquakes finish 7th in the West, four points outside the playoffs.

2016: _______________?

The San Jose Earthquakes head into this season looking for their first playoff berth since 2012, although it will be an uphill battle in a very deep MLS Western Conference.

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Coach Dominic Kinnear came into San Jose last season and immediately turned things around. In his first year in charge, Kinnear transformed the Earthquakes from a team that finished 20 points outside the playoffs in 2014 to a team that was fighting for a playoff berth on the final day of the regular season in 2015.

Although they fell just short, Kinnear will feel confident heading into 2016 that this is the year San Jose returns to postseason soccer.

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Not only does Kinnear have a year of experience with the team under his belt, but so will his players. Marc Pelosi joined San Jose midway through last season from Liverpool, and the 21-year-old will rejoin the team a couple months into 2016 after February knee surgery.

It’ll be a full season in San Jose for the impactful Anibal Godoy, as the Panamanian international was signed as a late-season addition last summer. Kinnear is also hoping for growth from Fatai Alashe, a highly-skilled midfielder coming off of a debut campaign in which he was a finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year.

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Soccer-fever has hit the Bay Area, with the Earthquakes selling out all of their home games in the brand new Avaya Stadium last year, and a waiting list for season tickets that is already into the 2017 season. With a full house every night and some top young talent, San Jose should continue to trend upwards in the West.