San Jose Earthquakes

Last year was a rather insane roller-coaster for San Jose Earthquakes fans. They were all but left for dead in August when they were closing out a six-match winless run that included five losses. But then four straight wins over some of the league's best teams left them in prime position to make the postseason for just the third time since 2008. They closed out the season with nine points over their final eight to fall short, though, leaving them in a bit of a odd place going into 2016.

This is not a team in need of a massive rebuild. They've got interesting players and Chris Wondolowski remains one of the league's top scorers. But they also lack much of an identity. Expect them to contend, but it's hard to see them pushing for any silverware.

2015 record 13-13-8, 7th place in Western Conference

2015 Playoffs Did not qualify

Key additions Chad Barrett, Simon Dawkins, Andres Imperiale, Alberto Quintero

Key losses Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi, Leandro Barrera

Projected Starting XI (4-4-2) David Bingham; Marvell Wynne, Victor Bernardez, Clarence Goodson, Shaun Francis; Alberto Quintero, Simon Dawkins, Anibal Godoy, Shea Salinas; Chris Wondolowski, Quincy Amarikwa

Q&A with Robert Jonas, Center Line Soccer

Why should a new fan support this team?

Put simply, if you want a team that is part of the local Bay Area community, you've found it. The Quakes haven't come by it the easy way, as stadium hopping around local colleges in the two iterations of the team (the original MLS Quakes moved to Houston in 2006, before "returning" as an expansion team in 2008) left something to be desired in putting down roots. But with the opening of Avaya Stadium in San Jose last year, and increasing ties with the community and local companies, the Earthquakes are finally firmly part of the Bay Area sporting hierarchy, and represent a change of pace of the glamour clubs in Los Angeles and New York.

Our season hinges on

The Quakes have made plenty of upgrades on the offensive side of the ball, but the team's aging defense -- center backs Clarence Goodson and Victor Bernardez are 33 years old -- will have to stay stout in order to keep games close. If ascending goalkeeper David Bingham continues his development and the backline's lack of speed is not too often exposed, then these Earthquakes have the talent to break their MLS Cup playoff drought.

Why this year won't be like last year

It can be argued this team hit rock bottom in 2014, and last year was a major improvement, as they had nowhere to go but up. After making a double-digit improvement in points last year under head coach Dominic Kinnear, the team's stated goal is to make a similar improvement this year. The additions of Simon Dawkins and Alberto Quintero on the wings, will help add attacking punch. The bottom line is that last year was a rebuilding year in which San Jose were fairly close to getting in the playoffs -- in 2016, the playoffs are definitely in sight for this club.

Game we're most looking forward to in 2016

As it seems to have been every season since it was first played in 2012, the annual California Clasico against the LA Galaxy at Stanford Stadium is the biggest match on the calendar. Marking the kickoff to the Earthquakes' summer of soccer, the big game attracts crowds approaching 50,000, who have witnessed some of the best games in the long-standing rivalry with LA. In addition, the match serves as a measuring stick for Quakes fans as to how their team compares to their Southern California rival. This season especially, with all the big-name signings the Galaxy have brought aboard, in addition to the established stars they feature, will make the Cali Clasico a can't-miss match in 2016.