clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

Don't buy the hype. The San Jose Earthquakes are terrible

Forget their record. This Quakes team is historically bad.

Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

For the first time in a long time, the San Jose Earthquakes come to town with a better record than the LA Galaxy, being one of only three teams in the league to go 2-0-0 to start the season. With the additions of Simon Dawkins and Panamanian winger Alberto Quintero, there is a growing consensus that this Quakes team is better than last year.

I fundamentally disagree. In the off-season, I wrote this about the Quakes, breaking down the problem with their current offensive build-- €”mainly, an over-dependence on crosses.  The Quakes have far from fixed this underlying problems, and, if anything, have doubled down on their bad soccer ways.

Last Sunday, while San Jose was in the process of handing the Portland Timbers a 2-0 defeat, I tweeted something which perplexed many people. I made the claim that this San Jose team would be one of the worst in league history if it weren't for Chris Wondolowski. Here was Matthew Doyle's response.

While I admit that my tweet came across as hyperbolic, the numbers really do back up my case. If current trends continue throughout the season (a big if considering the small sample size), San Jose will end up being one of the worst MLS teams of all time.


San Jose are averaging 7.5 shots per game.  No team has ever finished the season with a shot rate this low. Obviously, it's still early, but when you consider the fact that both of their games have come at home (home teams tend to shoot more in MLS) there is certainly far more cause for alarm than celebration. On the flip side, San Jose are giving up an average of 17 shots per game. Since 2011, only one team has finished the season giving up that many shots per game (spoilers: it was also San Jose).

While a shot deficit of 23 over two games may seem rather alarming, some will rightly point out that shot totals are often times not as important as shot quality. In other words, it could very well be that San Jose are giving up a lot of shots, but not giving up very many shots from quality locations. This is a strategy which Seattle has used for years.

So is there any truth to this theory? Let's break it down.

Shots in the 18 yard box

First  let's look at shots in the 18 yard box.

Total shots

Shots in the box

Percentage of shots in the box

Box Shot Conversion











As you can see, San Jose is running a 13 shot deficit when it comes to shots in the box. Furthermore, their opponents are getting a significantly higher percentage of shots in the box.  So far, this is not a case of efficiency. Far from it. But let's dig a little deeper to see if we can figure out what's going on with those conversion rates.

Danger zone shots

Not all shots in the 18 yard box are created equally. There is a segment of the box known as the "danger zone" highlighted in blue below, where shots are converted at a higher percentage than other shots in the box.

Total shots

Danger zone shots

Percentage of shots in the danger zone

Danger zone Conversion











Here we see that opponents have gotten 6 more shots in the danger zone than San Jose and at roughly the same percentages.

Let's go even deeper and see if the Quakes are doing anything special to limit danger zone conversion.



Off Target


Shots in SJ DZ





While San Jose are definitely blocking more shots in the danger zone than most teams, they are still letting 73% of them go uncontested. Opponents are simply missing them. Of course, while there is something to be said for defenders whose pressure forces bad shots, Occam's razor points to a different factor-- €”luck.

And when you strip away the luck from San Jose's numbers, there is only one logical conclusion: