SANTA CLARA -- Now that coach Mark Watson has signed a multiyear deal, the Earthquakes will focus on improving the offense, club officials said Wednesday as they conducted exit interviews with players.
The team announced the deal to retain Watson, who went 11-5-3 after taking over for Frank Yallop in June. After missing the MLS Cup playoffs by one point, San Jose hopes to sign an attacking midfielder and a striker who can get behind defenders.
"That's what we need to be able to play different ways," general manager John Doyle said.
It's clear Doyle and his newly signed coach agree the 2013 Quakes were one-dimensional in relying on attacks generated by wide midfielders Shea Salinas, Cordell Cato and Marvin Chavez. While the team's central midfielders were good at distributing balls to the outside, the Quakes didn't have a dynamic player to push forward from the middle.
"We like it when our wide players get the ball," Watson said. "But I wouldn't say that is Option A. I'd like our team to be more versatile."
Doyle has identified some players he thinks can fulfill those roles. But he and Watson must first figure out who will be retained from the current roster.
The only regular out of contract is left fullback Steven Beitashour, a San Jose native who is expected to play for Iran in next year's World Cup. Beitashour wants to return to the Quakes -- "They are the team I grew up watching" -- but he also might need to move abroad to improve his chances of representing Iran.
"We want Steve back 100 percent," Doyle said.
Depending on Beitashour's status, the Earthquakes are less concerned about the back line than the offense. The team allowed only two goals in its final nine games and improved markedly after signing Clarence Goodson and English fullback Jordan Stewart in August.
"You have guys that are alpha males in some way, very prideful and don't want to give up goals," said Goodson, who hopes to make the U.S. World Cup roster. "You could say that about this entire team."
Goodson, who will continue to train in case he is called up for national team games at Scotland and Austria next month, doesn't expect wholesale changes.
But the players are waiting for Watson to put his touch on the team now that the interim label has been removed.
"When he took over, we were a pretty delicate team," said midfielder Sam Cronin, the team's MVP. "He will have a full offseason to mold the team how he wants it to be done."
Perhaps the biggest question is the status of Chavez, a Honduran international who led the team in assists in 2012. Chavez played a minor role over the past two months when the Quakes reeled off a nine-game unbeaten streak in all competition.
Watson said the midfielder was unavailable in recent games because of personal reasons. The coach didn't elaborate on what the issues are.
Another change could involve midfielder Rafael Baca, a former Loyola Marymount star who became a regular in 2012. Although he paired well with Cronin, Baca could lose his starting spot if the team signs an attacking midfielder.
The development came on the day Chicago fired coach Frank Klopas after the Fire missed the MLS Cup playoffs by a point. Yallop, 49, left the Quakes on June 7 in what was called a mutual decision.
Yallop did not immediately return a call for comment.