Finally, more than two months into the season, the San Jose Earthquakes have finally won an MLS game, leaving no more winless teams in the MLS. Less than a week after Matías Almeyda was released by the club, interim manager Alex Covelo has guided the team to their first three points. Not only did they win, but the team played their best soccer of the season.
A hat trick, broken record and strong opponent, Saturday’s game had it all, as the Quakes finally won a game in the MLS. After a few weeks of chaos as Almeyda’s tenure with the team came to an end, it was refreshing to see the team finally.
By far the best part of Saturday’s game was the attack, as the front three were able to create space for themselves and exploit mismatches all game long. Man of the match Cristian Espinoza had, what was by far, his best performance in a Quakes shirt, scoring his first ever hat trick. Jamiro Monteiro showed why the club chose to trade for him, as he pulled all the strings for the Quakes’ attack.
Despite dumping Almeyda’s man marking system, the defense still struggled, as the partnership of Calvo and Nathan failed to put in a decent performance with Seattle finding quality chances. The outside back positions have also been struggling and the team should look for a right back this summer. Another concerning trend has been Cade Cowell’s form so far this season, as he has yet to fully establish himself as a starter.
In what was their best performance of the season so far, the Quakes were finally able to find a way to win with several players stepping up to push the Quakes over the hill. There were, of course, some issues but the hope is that they could be fixed over time as Covelo settles in.
In the last few matches under Almeyda, the team did begin to show progress in the attack, but the game against the Sounders felt like all those pieces finally worked. From Yueill to Espinoza, there were great performances from the midfield to the attack.
It would be wrong to start anywhere else besides Espinoza’s performance, he was magnificent, as he was able to cut in on the space provided by Ebobisse and Monteiro. After having struggled for most of the season, he seems to have been freed from a lot of the playmaking duty with Monterio taking over. This allowed him to be more clinical in the final third, leading to him scoring the Quakes’ tenth MLS hat trick.
Monteiro’s performance was indicative of a great offense, as all the forwards moved fluidly and this was seen in the goals they scored. The third goal was a great example of the fluidity, as Monteiro, Yueill and Espinoza all played a great sequence with Ebobisse stretching the defense to give the three space. This fluidity gave them a chance to attack a slower Seattle defense and overwhelm them with the speed of the Quakes attackers.
The midfield partnership of Yueill and Remedi, and Greguš to a lesser extent, looked great and was by far the most balanced midfield that the Quakes have used this season. The balance in the midfield allowed Yueill to be more involved in the attack than he had been thus far.
Something that may have potentially gone under the radar was how well Covelo adapted as the game went on, as his substitutions and formation changes helped deliver the win. After the Sounders went up 3-1, instead of giving up, Covelo opted to sub out Greguš to put in Cade. This was done in order to push Monteiro in the middle behind the striker to allow him to operate in the space vacated by Ebobisse.
This change in both personnel and formation gave the Quakes another dimension in the attack, with Monteiro cutting up the Seattle defense to get an assist on the second Espinoza and Yueill goals. As the game went on, he subbed in Beason for López to move towards a back three with Marie going up. This paid off as Marie’s presence further up the pitch overpowered the Sounders and put too much pressure on their defense, leading to the Quakes winning.
With their first win in the MLS under their belt this season, Quakes fans have a lot to like from this performance and should hope the team can continue with the positives. Covelo’s choices in this game are positive improvements from the failures of Almeyda’s tenure this season.
Despite the overwhelming positives, there were still issues with the team that have been surrounding the team since the start of the season. The defense clearly needs some help and the hope is that the summer will allow them to invest in some help and the Cade issue is still there.
Defensively the Quakes do still need a lot of work, as Calvo’s addition to the backline hurts them on the defensive side but helps them in the attack. A potential fix for this would be to move to a back three with Beason and Nathan with those two covering for Calvo’s issues. However, clearly the best option would be to play with Beason and Nathan as the center backs and use Calvo off the bench.
In addition to the issues with the center back pairings, the outside backs have been underperforming this season despite the talented Marcos López. To be fair, López has struggled and been inefficient, but no matter the player at right back, there is no production and it feels like they’re a man down. With salary space available, the Quakes could make a move in the summer window to bring in a right back, but that may depend on how the team is performing otherwise the front office may wait.
The other issue that should be discussed is Cade Cowell’s lack of a role either with Almeyda or Covelo so far, but this is one that could be resolved as the season drags on. Cade has only four starts and has made 3 appearances off the bench with both coaches seemingly unable to find a spot for him. Just to highlight this issue, Almeyda played him at left back earlier this season.
It’s true that the Quakes have a lot of talent in the positions, as Espinoza and Monteiro are more talented than Cade currently and Ebobisse has been fantastic so far. However, Cade’s production this season has been less than ideal with only a goal and assist for the all star. More should be expected for the future face of the team, but at the same time, it should be up to the coach to find a way to use him correctly.
After a few months of going winless, the Quakes have finally grabbed their first win, as they move from last place in the west to the spot above last place. There were a lot of positives to take from this game, as the team finally looked like they could score at will. With another tough test in NYCFC coming this weekend, fans hope that the team has finally figured something out.
Player and Manager Ratings:
GK- Marcinkowski- 6
DF- Marie- 6
DF- Nathan- 6
DF- Calvo- 6
MD- Yueill- 8
MD- Greguš- 6
MD- Remedi- 7
FW- Monteiro- 9
FW- Ebobisse- 6
Beason- N/A(Didn’t play enough)
Kikanovic- N/A(Didn’t play enough)
Featured image: Darren Yamashita/USA Today