Another season, another terrible, as the Quakes lose 3-1 to a New York Red Bulls side that is rebuilding. In what is, hopefully, not a sign of things to come, Matías Almeyda’s side struggled on both sides of the ball. While it’s not time to panic and abandon all hope yet, it does feel that the issues that sank the team are fixable.
After another interesting offseason, where the team did make some quality additions, there was hope that this season could be a change from the disappointment of seasons past. Especially as Almeyda’s time as manager comes to an end, it felt that this season was the only way to salvage his time here.
In the offseason, new general manager Chris Leitch made his presence felt, as he pulled off a series of trades and signings that reflected his own strategy for success in the MLS. With MLS veterans and high ceiling prospects replacing Almeyda’s transfers, as Leitch overhauled the roster. Time will tell whether these were the right moves, but it seems like Leitch is certain that it’s the better gamble.
This all led to the team’s first game of the season against the Red Bulls on Saturday at PayPal where fans hoped to see a new reinvigorated side. For the most part, fans were left disappointed with the team’s performance despite some good performances. The score may have flattered the Red Bulls, but the Quakes still didn’t necessarily deserve to win the game.
A lot of the issues that plagued the team in the game against the Red Bulls are repeating issues that have appeared during Almeyda’s tenure. With all that said, there were good signs and there’s more than enough time to turn things around.
Starting with the positive signs from the game, as there were a few and making them more consistent will help decide the team’s success this season. Despite losing, the attack and midfield looked good and it should be a matter of time before the attack really starts firing.
The majority, if not all, of the good moments from the game came from individual player performances, as the forwards and midfield put in some excellent work. Leitch’s additions, barring Calvo, all had some good moments and were clearly at home at the MLS level. This marks a departure from the previous strategy, as many of the players brought in over the past few years failed to settle in the MLS.
Jamiro Monteiro looked great and his individual skill level was by far the best on either team, showing just how important he could be for the team. Ján Greguš also looked at home in the midfield and is the perfect partner for Remedi, as he adds another level of playmaking to the side. Chofis also had some good moments and looks at home on the right wing, playing off Monteiro.
Throughout the game, the positive moments came from the midfield and attack, as they linked up really well. The wingers and midfielders were able to constantly find space to work in and linked up well with Monteiro being central to all key moments. While it was unfortunate that they failed to score more than once, these connections should be key for the team this season.
While it was a poor result, there are definite positives to be taken from the match and developing those positive signs should help the team succeed. For the moment, it does seem like Leitch’s transfer decisions have the chance to define the team’s potential this year.
Now to the negatives, there were a lot and it feels like the issues are a reflection of Almeyda’s time with the team. One of the biggest negatives, Nathan’s injury, was not his fault, but it was always going to be an odd choice to start him, as he was still recovering from injury.
All the issues really stem from the formation and the choice to play certain players out of position, as that stymied any real chance of a cohesive team. It was always going to mean that the certain players who were playing out of position were going to have issues with their role. This doesn’t mean that those players are bad, but playing them out of position hurts them and the team.
Jackson Yueill is not a center back, he’s an incredibly talented midfielder who can be the key to opening up the field from the middle. He’s not Leonardo Bonucci, a world class defender who can also be an effective passer. Playing him in the center of defense robs him of his ability to impact the game and relegates him to just launching long balls.
Cade Cowell also suffered playing more as a wingback in the formation, as it limited him to playing more defensively and limited his ability to join the attack. Cowell’s strengths are his ability to be a play finisher, by putting him further back it relegates him to a supporting role. This is a role meant for Marcos López, who shockingly didn’t play, as his defensive work would have greatly helped the team.
Nathan’s injury in the first half was always going to hurt the team, as their best defender and team leader suffered a non-contact knee injury. If he misses a significant amount of time, it could all but sink the Quakes, as Calvo clearly isn’t an adequate replacement. He was already coming into the game injured and it was baffling to see him start knowing that he wasn’t 100%.
A mixture of bad formation and tactical choices all but condemned the Quakes to this loss, as ghosts of seasons past seem to still be with the team. It’s not as if the roster is unsalvageable and the ship is going down, there is plenty of time but the formation must be addressed.
It’s too early to write off the team, but it does feel that the team is stuck in a cycle of underperforming with a talented roster. As Almeyda’s time comes to an end, it feels that there is blame on both sides for how his tenure has gone. The Quakes didn’t always match his ambition in terms of signings and Almeyda was at times too stubborn with his tactics as the league passed him.
Does this mean that there is no way for the Quakes to find success this season, of course not, it’s the first weekend so there is plenty of time. Instead, they should use this game as a way to learn from their mistakes and find the correct formation for the players at hand.
The Quakes will next play Columbus, a team that looked really good in their first game, on Saturday, as they look to bounce back from their big loss. There are some encouraging signs, with the player acquisitions have looked good, but it will all come down to Almeyda’s tactical choices. While it is too early to panic, the first game was definitely not a great sign for what was supposed to be a promising season.
Player and Manager Rankings:
GK– Marcinkowski- 5
CB– Nathan- N/A
CB– Yueill- 6
CB– Calvo- 4
WB– Chofis- 7
WB– Cowell- 5
MD– Greguš- 7
MD– Moneiro- 7
FW– Espinoza- 7
FW– Ebobisse- 6
Featured Image: Kyle Terada/ USA Today