SAN JOSE -- Earthquakes coach Mark Watson was discussing how difficult it would be to retain defender Steven Beitashour when he got some breaking news.

Beitashour had been shipped to the Vancouver Whitecaps FC for allocation money while Watson was running the first day of practice for the 2014 season.

The move Monday wasn't entirely unexpected -- Beitashour wanted out -- but it underscored the evolving nature of the Earthquakes roster. As a buffer to Beitashour's pending departure, along with the fact that Victor Bernardez and Clarence Goodson could miss extended time on World Cup duty, the Quakes have been stockpiling defenders.

On Friday, they signed right back Brandon Barklage, who helped the New York Red Bulls to the Supporter's Shield last season, and Shaun Francis. Also, Andreas Gorlitz, a right back who played for FC Ingolstadt in Germany, was trying out Monday.

As the Beitashour news was sinking in, Watson expressed confidence in the state of the defense.

"I think we're in great shape," he said. "We're really excited to get Brandon Barklage. He's a player that we've followed for a long time. ... We're getting a very good player. He's a good character. We'll look to add a couple others to give us some depth."

The Quakes are looking to rebound from a disappointing season, in which they barely missed the playoffs. They scored only 35 goals in 34 MLS games -- 37 fewer than in 2012, when Chris Wondolowski and "Bash Brothers" Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon had career years.

In his audition as a head coach, Watson, a former Canadian international, nailed it. He guided the team to an 11-5-3 record and a berth in the Champions League quarterfinals after being promoted from assistant coach following Frank Yallop's resignation.

"It was a great run, and even though we didn't make the playoffs we felt really good about things," Watson said. "We're playing very well when the season ended. We're looking forward to this year. The ultimate goal will be to make the playoffs, and then we'll see what happens from there."

Goalkeeper Jon Busch, who helped the team pitch eight shutouts in its final 14 games last season, thinks the Watson era is off to a great start.

"Mark's being allowed to put his stamp on the team and build it the way he wants," Busch said. "That's all you can ask as a head coach. 'Let me do what I want and see how it goes.' I think it's gonna be very successful."

Watson and general manager John Doyle seemingly spent the offseason plugging holes and looking for a little more panache in the middle to complement Wondolowski, who has amassed 72 goals over the past four seasons. He had only 11 goals last year, including a league-high eight game-winners, after scoring 27 times in 2012.

Top draft pick JJ Koval of Stanford is a promising two-way midfielder, and Tommy Thompson, 18, the club's first Homegrown signing, has star potential as a scorer and playmaker.

Barklage likes the fit so far. The former forward and midfielder likes to push forward, just like Beitashour.

"I've only played the right back position for the last two years now, so I still have a little bit of room to improve," Barklage said. "I like to get forward. I like to contribute offensively but also do my work defensively. The work starts now."

Atiba Harris, acquired from Colorado in a trade for Marvin Chavez, is on his sixth MLS team since entering the league in 2006. He has 22 goals and 20 assists in his career, including five goals and an assist last season. He has experience at forward, right midfield and left midfield.

Asked if he would like to play in the Quakes' new stadium next season, Harris gave a journeyman's response.

"I'm not going to think that far ahead," he said. "I'm just going to take it one day at a time. I'm just happy to be here today. Hopefully, I'm here tomorrow. I've seen sketches of it, and it seems like it's gonna be fantastic. The people of San Jose and the Bay Area deserve a stadium, a quality stadium like this."

Midfielder Rafael Baca recently signed with Mexican giant Cruz Azul, but newcomer Jean-Baptiste Pierazzi sure looks like an upgrade. He has made 67 appearances over the last 21/2 seasons for AC Ajaccio (France).

Watson describes Pierazzi as being "at the top of his career" and raves of his tactical awareness. He will team in the middle with Sam Cronin, the Quakes' MVP last season. The midfield already boasts quality wingers in Shea Salinas and Cordell Cato, who made Chavez expendable with his strong play.

In the back, the Quakes will lean on veteran center back Jason Hernandez and journeyman English left back Jordan Stewart, who supplanted Justin Morrow in 2013.

The club is also high on newcomer Billy Schuler, 23, a former North Carolina All-America forward acquired through a weighted lottery.

As for the Beitashour saga, Doyle said the club has been having contract discussions with him for three years, but the "numbers just haven't added up."

"He's kind of always made it clear that he wanted to leave and make bigger money," Watson said. "We tried to keep him."