My SI.com editor Jonah Freedman reported today that the San Jose Earthquakes might return to Major League Soccer as early as 2008. It seems that Oakland A's owner Lew Wolff is anxious to get the team up and running, which is a good thing.
I don't want to get my hopes up because MLS has been close to several venues in the past (Cleveland, Rowan, etc.) and nothing has come of it but this seems legit. The passion for soccer in Northern California exists. I've had a taste of it first-hand.
In 2005, I decided to take a trip to the Galaxy-San Jose game in late June, the first game that Landon Donovan played in San Jose as a member of the Galaxy. It was cool. My wife and I made a weekend out of it and stayed in Cambria the night before as we drove up the coast. Now, driving up the coast of California seems cool but it's actually a very winding drive through some pretty narrow roads. Had I known better, I would have turned back around from Cambria to take the 101 back up instead of taking State Route 1 but you live and learn, I guess. I must admit the scenery was nice, though.
Anyway, I was severely underwhelmed by Spartan Stadium. It was a dump. The field was way too narrow, even more so in person. The facility was outdated and didn't seem Major League in any way. The "locker rooms" were portables back behind the stadium and were a long walk from the field. Then, you pretty much had to do interviews in plain view of fans and security and everything else so that made it feel more like a college or high school event than anything.
The game was a letdown on the field and pretty much lacked drama. San Jose won 3-0; two of the goals were own goals. The atmosphere was great, however. Before the game, fans burned effigies of Landon and some kid walked away with Landon's head, well, off some sort of Landon piñata or something. I had been talking to some 'Quake fans over the phone the week leading up to the game but I forget the supporters group name. I got some contact info from Soccer Silicon Valley; I remember that much. They were nice and very well informed. Each and every fan I talked to knew pretty much all there was to know about the history of the Clash/Quakes.
I hope San Jose returns to MLS. We'd welcome back some much-maligned but well-deserving fans and it would be an excuse to make a few road trips for Galaxy and Chivas USA road games, except I'd take the 101 up north next time.