When the Quakes signed Matítas Almeyda to be their manager of the future in 2018, it was supposed to signal a new era of success for the team. Four years later and the club finds themselves in the same limbo as before with little signs of change. All this leads to the uncertainty of the club’s future with Almeyda’s contract ending after this season and no real plans for the future.
In early 2018, the Quakes made a signing that they hoped would catapult them back amongst the top teams in the league. A highly regarded manager, Almeyda’s previous job at Chivas made him one of the most sought after managers, so it was a bit of a shock that he chose the Quakes in 2018. Almeyda’s signing would represent a new era of Quakes soccer where the team would play attractive soccer and compete for the MLS Cup every year.
Now in the final year of his contract, his time with the team hasn’t gone the way many expected when he was first signed. With the team in pretty much the same place as it was before Almeyda, and only one playoff appearance, it’s safe to say that the club has yet to break out of their post-2012 rut.
The disappointing way that his time has gone hasn’t always been his fault, as the team failed to properly support him with transfers and has always seemingly entertained the idea of letting him leave. It is also true that some of the blame lies with Almeyda, he has stubbornly clung to formations and tactics that have failed and his player selection has sometimes failed. With both sides at fault, to different degrees, the marriage has always seemed off with neither side ever being truly clear with one another.
This all leads to the uncertain future of the club and without a clear plan, it just seems like the club will be stuck in mediocrity. It’s possible that Almeyda will stay with the team and extend his contract, if both sides are willing to work long term. However, the club should still do their due diligence and look towards a long term manager and project.
Almeyda could stay with the club for a longer period of time should he feel that there is good progress on the current project. Should he stay on as manager, it’s imperative that he and the club come to an agreement on a project that combines player development and MLS Cup contention.
Given how some players have developed well under him, it’s no surprise that the players have enjoyed their time with him as manager and wouldn’t mind him staying on. The culture that he has built, along with his assistant coaches, is something that the club has never had. Even if he were to leave, the impact he’s had on the club is only second to Frank Yallop.
A long term plan is desperately needed with a clear objective and transfer strategy, as for far too long, the club has operated without any real clarity. If he stays on, the club must provide him with MLS quality players who fit his system while agreeing to get the club to be competitive. At the same time, Almeyda must be willing to adjust his tactics when things go wrong and move away from his previous transfer preferences.
There is a chance that Almeyda will stay on with the club long term given his reputation with the players and fanbase. Both sides, however, must agree on long term objectives that fit both their philosophies in order to avoid more mediocrity.
If Almeyda leaves or the club decides to not extend him, the Quakes must get their next managerial hire right. The club can’t afford to spend more time near the basement of the MLS with the investments made into making PayPal Park a premier stadium in the MLS.
Ian Russell will be the manager of the club at some point, as he had been with the club for close to 12 years before joining the coaching staff of Toronto. Russell’s time with Reno 1868 showed his ability to combine player development and competitive play. With 9 seasons as an assistant coach in the MLS, Russell has learned from top MLS coaches from Yallop to Bob Bradley.
There are other good options for the Quakes, such as Jordan Ferrell who has coached Oakland Roots, but it just seems like the fit is perfect with Russell. With the club refraining from big signings, Russell has shown he can work with young players and develop them into contenders. If the club is devoted to becoming a prime location for young players to develop, Russell may be perfect for the role.
In the case of Almeyda not returning, the club must be willing to find a manager that will guide the club back to some sort of competitiveness. While it’s hard to guess what manager could replace Almeyda, it seems like Russell is a good bet.
Almeyda’s tenure was supposed to signal the Quakes’ ascension back to the top of the MLS, and he could still be successful this season, but so far the Quakes are stuck in the same cycle. No matter if Almeyda decides to remain with the team, the front office must come up with a plan for the future. Just as Almeyda’s hiring was pivotal for the team, getting the proper planning done for the future will likely define the Quakes’ success for the next era.
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