Busch era likely over for Earthquakes

Offseason activity picked up for the San Jose Earthquakes this week with the club buying a new forward, saying goodbye to two veterans, resigning a young goalkeeper, and waiving four players all within 48 hours.

The Earthquakes announced they will not be picking up club options on the contracts of forward Billy Schuler, defender Tommy Muller, fullback Andreas Gorlitz and goalkeeper Billy Knutsen.

The release of these four shouldn’t come as a shock, as not one made more than five appearances, and two — Muller and Knutsen — saw no action in 2014.

Muller was the Quakes first round pick in 2013 but failed to make a single appearance with the first team due to a myriad of injuries.

The release of Andreas Gorlitz is disappointing, as the German right back was seen as a first team option before his season was cut short due to an ACL injury. At age 32 and with a career full of serious injuries, rumors are that Gorlitz may be considering retirement.

His departure, and the fact that Pablo Pintos went unprotected in the expansion draft, shows what we already knew: the Earthquakes are looking to sign in a first-team caliber right-back this offseason.

But right back isn’t the only position where San Jose will be making a change. Club defensive MVP Jon Busch is out of contract and the club announced he will be available in the MLS re-entry process, which begins with a draft on Friday.

This announcement came just a day after the club announced they’d signed goalkeeper David Bingham to a new four-year contract, and a Jeff Carlisle tweet that said there was no chance of the 38-year-old Busch returning.

Coming off a year where he set the MLS single-season save record, no one is arguing that Busch isn’t still a top-tier MLS keeper, but Bingham has waited in the wings for four seasons, and Busch’s age and contract situation make this a pretty obvious time for the club to make the inevitable switch.

Speaking of obvious, Atiba Harris’ also saw his contract option left on the table after a disappointing season. He will join Busch and 61 others in the Re-Entry draft on Friday.

Long-time San Jose center back Jason Hernandez was selected by expansion club New York City FC in the third round of the MLS expansion draft on Wednesday afternoon.

While the selection hurts San Jose’s defensive depth in the short term, the move is ultimately beneficial for both clubs.

Hernandez’ appeal for NYFC is threefold: He’s a smart, veteran defender whose spot on the depth chart in 2014 had more to do with the quality of Victor Bernardez and Clarence Goodson than anything else, he’s an excellent locker room presence and leader, and is a local product born and raised in New York City.

The Earthquakes benefit is strictly financial. Hernandez’ cap hit in 2014 was $213,333, good for seventh highest on the team, and a much higher salary than the third best CB on a squad should command.

His departure clears that money off the books, plus an additional $50,000 in allocation. Hernandez leaves San Jose after solid six seasons, 163 appearances and countless diving blocks under his belt.

With Hernandez gone, depth at center back becomes a need for San Jose this offseason, especially with an inexperienced goalkeeper (see below) likely between the sticks in 2015.

Just a few hours after Hernandez was drafted, the Quakes made an acquisition of their own, trading their second-round (25th overall) Super Draft pick to Orlando City FC in exchange for second-year forward Mark Sherrod. Sherrod was drafted by Dominic Kinnear and Houston in the second round of last year’s SuperDraft.

Sherrod had a promising rookie campaign with Houston claiming a starting spot by May, but ultimately had his season cut short after suffering a torn ACL. The 6-foot-3 forward scored two goals in nine appearances.

The Earthquakes also acquired winger Leandro Berrera in the waiver draft on Wednesday. Barrera, 23, scored one goal in 32 appearances for Chivas USA last season, and is the second goat and third attacker (joining Kris Tyrpak) San Jose has added this offseason.

Going into the offseason it looked like San Jose would need to address their situation at striker, especially with Steven Lenhart out of contract and his future unclear. The Earthquakes scored a measly 35 goals last season (second worst behind Chivas) and lack a second goal scoring option after Chris Wondolowski.

The question now is this: Is Doyle collecting under the radar strikers in the hopes that at least one will rise up and prove to be a diamond in the rough, or are there still plans to sign a proven goalscorer and use the aforementioned for depth purposes? It will be interesting to see how this plays out.

 Acquisitions

FWD Kris Tyrpak (MLS dispersal draft – Chivas USA)
FWD/MID Leandro Barrera (Waiver draft – Chivas USA)
FWD Mark Sherrod (Trade – Orlando FC)

Departures

DEF Jason Hernandez (Expansion draft – NYFC)
DEF Tommy Muller (Club option not picked up)
FWD Billy Schuler (Club option not picked up)
DEF Andreas Gorlitz (Club option not picked up)
GK Billy Knutsen (Club option not picked up)

Out of contract

GK Jon Busch (Re-Entry)
FWD Atiba Harris (Re-Entry)
FWD Steven Lenhart
MID Sam Cronin