Most teams start the season struggling either on the offensive or defensive side, with the truly elite teams not being limited on either side. Then there’s the bottom dwellers, teams that can’t score and defend to save their lives, sinking them to the bottom of the table. The Quakes belong with those at the bottom of the table with the team looking bereft of any ideas on how to score or defend.
Another game has passed, another mediocre result for the Quakes, as they fell to a good Minnesota United side that has not lost to the Quakes since 2018. In a pattern that has become apparent since the start of the season, the Quakes were unable to defend cohesively or create good chances.
On the defensive side, the team has allowed 9 goals so far, being tied third for most goals allowed so far this season. When a team is closer to Inter Miami than Austin FC defensively, there are clearly issues that need to be addressed. The experiment of Jackson Yueill has clearly failed and the longer Almeyda goes with it, the more the team will struggle.
Offensively the Quakes, on paper, don’t look the worst, as on the goals scored front, they are in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference. This is a case of stats needing context, as three of their four goals came against the Columbus Crew, meaning they have only scored one goal outside of that game. With the quality of playmakers this team has, it’s near inexcusable that they are unable to score more and it is baffling to watch.
As another season begins to go off the rails for the Quakes, it’s not as if the team can focus on one area to better themselves. With only Inter Miami being comparable, it’s a terrifying experience for Quakes fans.
In an offseason where Francisco Calvo was the only defensive addition, outside the MLS draft, the team was always going to operate on a gamble. That gamble has backfired spectacularly due to an unfortunate injury and Almeyda’s tactics.
Nathan’s injury was always going to hurt the Quakes, as since his arrival, he has been the team’s best defender and its heart and soul. Playing Nathan when he was clearly still injured was such a risky gamble that it should have never been entertained. Now, the team doesn’t have its best defender and must rely on a midfielder and a third string center back which is not ideal to put it mildly.
It’s not as if the team is totally lacking at the center back position, as Tanner Beason and Oskar Ågren have spent time on the bench this season. Beason has already proved that he is a MLS quality defender with the potential to be amongst the best in the league, so he should be starting every week. Given how the front office traded for the pick the became Ågren, it’s been disheartening to see Almeyda not give the youngster a chance, as he could surely give him another choice at the position.
The Jackson Yueill at center back experiment has been a massive disaster, as it robs the team of a playmaker and forces him to play at a position that is, understandably, uncomfortable for him. It hasn’t worked for a lot of reasons, but chief amongst those is that Yueill is just not good enough defensively for the role. When Almeyda shifted Remedi to the backline and pushed Yueill up, it greatly benefited the team, as Remedi is a better defender and gave the team another playmaker.
At times last season, Almeyda did play some natural midfielders in the backline, but the difference was that those players were more defensive minded. Judson, who played in the backline often last season, would be a much better fit in the backline when compared to Yueill. Remedi or Judson could easily be on the backline, so it’s baffling that Almeyda continues to go with the Yueill experiment.
Defensively, the Quakes have struggled in part due to a devastating injury and Almeyda’s stubbornness in keeping Yueill in the backline. With all that being said, it does feel like these issues could be lessened once Nathan returns or when Almeyda moves Beason to the backline.
At first glance, the Quakes being near the middle of the pack in the west for goals scored seems like a positive development, but of course this needs some context. The majority of the team’s goals came in one game, showing the team’s lack of bite offensively in the majority of their games.
Removing the game against the Crew gives a better representation of the Quakes’ season, meaning that they have only scored one other goal. This fits better with their expected goals of 2.6, which is still putrid, but gives a better image of how the team has struggled to score. While it’s not the worst in the league, it’s still indicative of a side that struggles to create any chances of quality.
Another area of concern, in terms of their ability to score, is that every goal this season has come from a dead ball situation, meaning they have yet to score from open play. It’s kind of impressive how this team can score from a set piece situation, but just can’t score from open play. If the team was scoring regularly and could still score from set pieces, it’d be a great sign of a contending team.
Given the talent this side has, especially in terms of playmakers, it’s insane that they can’t score from open play. Monteiro has been an incredible addition, who is clearly the team’s most talented player, and he’s given the Quakes an ideal number 10. Espinoza and Chofis on the wings are both great MLS options who can carve space out for attackers up top.
The issue comes down to the team’s options at striker not being able to capitalize on the chances created by the wingers and Monteiro. It is concerning that neither option at striker, Ebobisse and Kikanović, have scored yet despite some good chances for both. While it’s not time to panic just yet, it does feel like the team’s success will depend on them getting going.
Offensively, barring the Crew game, the Quakes are the worst in the league with the team being unable to score in the open field. While they have played tough opponents, the team needs to do better than four goals scored with none of them from open play.
It’s true that in past seasons under Almeyda, the team has started out poorly just to bounce back in the summer, but this team feels different, as it seems like everyone is waiting for this season to be done. The defensive and offensive struggles are nothing too new for the Quakes, but it feels like the team is stuck in a loop with no way out. While the players seem to care about turning things around, it seems like from the ownership to the front office to Almeyda, there is a feeling that this experience needs to end.
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