After a terrible first game, many fans expected the Quakes to react properly in their game against a good Columbus Crew side. In what is an early contender for game of the season, the Quakes overcame being a man and two goals down to tie the game at the death. While neither team seemed like contenders during the game, it was still an exciting game that should provide clues on how the team will look from here.
To say the Quakes had a terrible first game of this MLS season would be an understatement, as the Red Bulls made the team and Almeyda’s tactics look more like a USL side than an MLS one. Being a Quakes fan means sometimes having little hope that things will get better, so not many expected this weekend’s game to be any different.
Coming into this weekend’s game, Almeyda’s comments about the lack of ambition from ownership and the front office had started to make the rounds across the MLS world. His comments bemoaned the actions of the team’s management, arguing that they didn’t bring in experienced winning players. In all fairness, while the Quakes have done a poor job at building a competitive roster, but Almeyda’s tactics have not.
Out of the gates the team played really well with the team getting an early lead thanks to a penalty converted by Cristian Espinoza after Paul Marie was taken down in the box. In the middle of the first half, Jamiro Monteiro received a red card and the team quickly collapsed, going down 3-1. Francisco Calvo would score two goals in the waning minutes of the game to give the team their first point of the year.
Unlike last week’s game, there are a lot more positives to take from this game, as the team had some great moments and there are shades of a good team starting to show. However, there are still lingering issues that have carried over from the last game that have yet to be addressed.
Before the red card and after the third Columbus goal, the Quakes played well and were able to have a good flowing offense. In addition to the offense looking good, the midfield partnership of Remedi and Greguš has been impressive to start the season.
Almeyda’s starting lineup moved the team back to a back four with Cade being replaced by Marcos López and Marie at right back taking Nathan’s place. From the start the team looked much more comfortable with the outside backs pushing up the field, allowing Marie to be taken down for the penalty. Playing in a back four also seems to provide more stability to the side’s shape, as it allowed for the defense to be less cluttered and gave the attack more options without sacrificing defense.
This shift in formation helped the midfield out with Remedi playing a great game, dropping back at times to be a third center back without cluttering the defense. His partner, Ján Greguš, has excelled alongside him, playmaking from deep which allows for the team to switch play from side to side easily. Not only did Greguš have a good performance from open play, but his delivery on free kicks and corners was excellent and resulted in two assists on Calvo’s goals.
A shift back to a more familiar defensive scheme helped the side be more balanced with more options up and down the pitch. Unfortunately, the red card robbed fans of seeing the full potential of the offense, but in those glimpses, there were some exciting signs.
Chofis is really growing on the wing and has looked outstanding in the early part of the season, with his interplay with Monteiro and Espinoza looking great. Monteiro has been excellent and is probably the most talented player the Quakes have had in years. If that trio can continue to play well together, it may be what will define the team’s success this season.
In a sort of 180 from last week, there were a lot of positives to take from the game with the last minute goal hopefully raising the morale of the whole team. If the team can take the positives from this game and continue building on them, they should hopefully turn things around.
Some of the negatives are similar to last week with the most glaring being that Jackson Yueill doesn’t belong in the center of the defense. The other concerning pattern that has emerged has been the struggles of the strikers.
It will always be weird to see Yueill placed alongside the center backs, as he’s a talented midfielder that should be in the heart of the midfield. The issues with him being in the defense stem from him not being a good enough defender to be relied upon there and it robs him of his impact. That being said, this issue may come from the team having so many options in the midfield that Yueill might not fit in Almeyda’s choices there.
When the Quakes traded for Jeremy Ebobisse last summer, it came with the hope that he would be the Wondo replacement and unfortunately, and not totally his fault, it hasn’t happened yet. So far this season, he has struggled to get the ball in good positions and play within the offense. It’s a similar issue for Beni Kikanovic, but he seems more suited to play on the wings or off another striker like Mario Mandžukić at Juventus.
The negatives are hopefully fixable with a few changes in the formation and scheme used by Almeyda, but it may take time to see them fully addressed. Neither are incredibly concerning at the moment, but will be things to keep an eye on as the season progresses.
Memories of the “never say die ” era of the Quakes were surely conjured up, as Calvo guided the second goal into the net as the final whistle blew. It was an exciting moment where the team refused to give up and pulled off a great comeback especially being down a player. Calvo’s two goals will hopefully be what pushes the team to turn their fortunes around in this early season.
There were plenty of positives to take from this game and there were definite improvements from last week’s game that show a team willing to adapt to win. While there a few negatives,
Hopefully this tie will serve as a springboard to a better season to finally show a club that is willing to win. Given Almeyda’s comments this week, it seems like the time to win with him is dwindling and if there is a way to salvage his time with the team, it has to be now . With all that being said, fans can only hope that the “never say die ” Quakes can inspire this team.
Player and Manager Ratings:
GK– Marcinkowski- 6
DF– Marie- 6
DF– Calvo- 9
DF– Yueill- 6
DF– López- 7
MD– Remedi- 7
MD– Greguš- 8
MD– Monteiro- 4
FW– Chofis- 6
FW– Ebobisse- 5
FW– Espinoza- 7
Featured Image: ESPN