The 2021 San Jose Earthquakes had a season of total disappointment in terms of both player and team success, which means that this offseason will likely be one of a soft rebuild where the team will look to build for the future while still being competitive.
This will allow certain players to improve and become larger pieces in next year’s team.
After another disappointing year for the Quakes, which has sadly been a trend since 2012, it’s clear that the team needs some rejuvenation.
General manager Chris Leitch has already hinted that there will unlikely be any big moves that would genuinely alter the team in its current state. This means that the team will have to look inward for improvement.
With that mindset, it would be helpful to look at the players that could play a large role in the rejuvenation of the Quakes.
These players can help be both the present and future of the team, giving Matítas Almeyda the squad he needs to finally contend in the west.
Tanner Beason was drafted 12th overall in 2020 to little fanfare, as the MLS SuperDraft isn’t regarded as the best path for building a squad. Since he got drafted, Beason has been a great addition, with Almeyda being a big fan of his and has already become the second-best defender on the team. With that said, Beason could become one of the best defenders in the league as he starts to enter his prime.
Since being drafted, Beason has played with different partners in central defense, from Nathan to Guram Kashia, meaning that he hasn’t been given a stable partnership with one player. However, with Nathan joining the team midseason, it seems like the team has found Beason’s partner in defense for the future. Nathan’s chaotic and passionate energy is the perfect foil to Beason’s more composed nature.
The one area that Beason must improve upon is his passing, as his passing ability is subpar and holding him back from truly becoming elite. Especially in a system that demands good passers like Almeyda’s, a defender can’t have passing numbers that are way below average. It doesn’t mean that he has to become Leonardo Bonucci, spraying balls from the defense to the forward line; he needs to at least improve on his short passing and bringing the ball forward.
Beason is the perfect bridge between the present and the future, as he could become a staple of MLS defenses for the future. Going into next season, Beason will have to improve his passing to help make the Quakes a more-complete team.
Eric Calvillo is a more interesting aspect of the team than most of the players currently on the roster. This season, Calvillo has been on loan with Orange County SC helping them win the USL Championship a few days ago. His return to the team should be a good sign for a team desperately needing some quality depth off the bench.
One of the big failures of seasons past has been the lack of a creator off the bench who can change the game upon entering the game. Calvillo could provide an alternative to Chofis, who hasn’t played many full games this past season. This would give the team another dimension in the attack in the waning minutes of a match.
While he will have to improve his goalscoring ability at the professional level, as he has struggled to score across his career, his passing ability should translate to the top level. Orange County has played him higher up the pitch, but it hasn’t yielded the assists and goals that one could expect playing the second striker role. Calvillo still has great passing numbers despite the lack of assists, and there is enough in his game to show he can still add another dimension to a team with his ability.
With his return to the team next season, Calvillo should give the team a chance to build their bench depth. Almeyda should give Calvillo the chance to learn under Chofis and be his understudy.
Cade Cowell had a great start to the season last year but waned in the middle of the season before tearing apart RSL in the penultimate game of the season. He will still be the cornerstone of this team next year as he begins angling for a move to Europe. There are still some areas that he must improve on to be the team’s top player going into next season.
While Cade’s physical talents are never in doubt, with his speed and athleticism being amongst the best in the league, to reach the next level, he must improve his touch and decision-making. These two skill sets are what differentiates between a complementary athletic piece and a game-changing cornerstone.
Decision-making is a skill that develops over time and with more gameplay, so it’s understandable for a young player to be lacking that. However, it may be useful to give Chofis the keys to the offense and let him drive the offense, giving Cade time to grow into his playmaking potential. Another thing that could help him with his decision-making would be Jeremy Ebobisse becoming a prolific scorer, further helping take the weight of goal scoring off his shoulders.
Improving his touch will require individual work, but it is as important as becoming a better decision-maker. Having a quality touch is another hallmark of any top player, and Cade has already shown that he can be an excellent dribble, so the potential is there, but he must unlock it.
With a transfer market that is likely to be a little more scaled back than fans may prefer, the Quakes will have to rely on players making a leap to be more competitive in the west next season.
Players from Beason to Calvillo will likely have the chance to contribute at a higher level. Fans will definitely have some player development to enjoy next season, as the team hopefully becomes more competitive.
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