It’s been exactly one month since the Matías Almeyda era officially ended in San Jose and it has been an interesting month. In that time, Alex Covelo has seen the Quakes transform and turn their fortunes around. For the first time in some time, there is optimism in San Jose with the Quakes playing positive soccer.
Over the past week, the Quakes have beaten CONCACAF Champions League winners Sounders on Penalties in the Open Cup and played out an exciting draw with the Whitecaps. With the MLS creeping towards its halfway point, the Quakes may have figured something out.
Offensively, the Quakes have looked much better since Covelo’s appointment with players like Jeremy Ebobisse and Cristian Epsinoza flourishing. Ditching the man marking system of Almeyda has been a godsend, as they’re not getting exposed as often. Covelo has found a combination that is working and with the Quakes only 5 points out of the playoffs, there is hope once again.
The biggest negative so far under Covelo has been some of the defensive performances, just as it had been under Almeyda. It does seem that moving away from man marking has greatly helped the team, but the lack of starting caliber defenders has limited the team. Rather than this being solely a tactical issue, it seems that there will need to be some moves made in the summer window.
As the Quakes have begun to turn things around, finally, there is optimism that the Quakes could make a run for the playoffs and in the Open Cup. There definitely needs to be some moves made in the summer, but the front office seems to finally have a plan in place.
So far, Covelo has managed 6 games with 4 wins, a loss and a draw, an impressive record for a coach who has little first team experience. Covelo has managed to expand on Almeyda’s offensive scheme while moving away from his disastrous defensive setup.
The shift offensively has really been to push Jamiro Monteiro into the middle of the attack to create in the space created by Ebobisse. This, in turn, has allowed for the two wingers to be more fluid in their play and move around in that space. Monteiro finally looks at home and the fee that the Quakes paid for him looks like a bargain.
Using the third goal scored by the Quakes in Saturday’s game as an example, Monteiro receives the ball with acres of space, as Ebobisse and the wingers are pushing Vancouver back. Once Cade gets the ball, Ebobisse darts towards goal, pulling Espinoza’s defender to him, leaving Espinoza wide open. Cade finds him and Espinoza cuts a ball across to Ebobisse who scores.
Espinoza has flourished under Covelo and is playing the best soccer since his first season in the league with 4 goals and 6 assists. Greguš is also sitting on 6 assists and has looked like another incredible signing by the front office. Along with Ebobisse, there is an argument for all three of them to be all stars this season, as they have represented a rebirth of hope in San Jose.
Moving away from Almeyda’s man marking system has made the team a lot more structured and keeps the opposition from exploiting certain matchups. The biggest weakness of that system is when teams draw defenders out of position to follow their man, leaving a gap. For over three years, that was how the Quakes were getting killed defensively, no matter the personnel.
Using the goals that the Quakes have conceded in recent games as examples, they have for the most part been the result of individual mistakes. It’s still not great to see it, but it still means that there is some sort of progress being made defensively. Nathan’s recovery has helped ease the struggles, but at a certain point Beason has to start over Calvo.
Covelo’s appointment has been positive for the Quakes, as the team has finally played to their level and the uncertainty of Almeyda’s final months is gone. There are, of course, issues but for now, Covelo is an excellent choice for the team.
While Covelo’s time so far has been positive, it doesn’t mean that there still aren’t issues that the front office has to deal with in the summer window. If the team feels like they can make a run in the Open Cup and are close to the playoff line then they must act in the summer.
As mentioned above, the biggest weakness for the Quakes has been their defense with no combination paying dividends yet. While Calvo is at the top of the league in terms of interceptions, his tendency to get drawn out of position continues to cause the team defensive headaches. Beason isn’t as involved in terms of build up play as Calvo, but offers more defensive stability.
With both Beason and Ågren on the bench, the Quakes do have options in the back and the front office seemingly believes that those two will be the future of the Quakes. This means that the team may be unlikely to add another center back to the roster. While it does make sense that the Quakes won’t spend on that position given their options, they should still move Beason to the starting lineup.
Since Steven Beitashour’s transfer away from the Quakes in 2013, the team has yet to find another solid right back. Marie has had some good moments this season, but his stats show that perhaps he should be playing further up the field. Both Marie and Thompson may be better utilized off the bench to bring both offense and defense into the game.
With a DP spot open and salary cap room, the Quakes may be tempted to spend big on a right back, especially with Chofis potentially being on his way out. DP or big money wing backs have had mixed success in the MLS with Ali Adnan a great example. It may be better for the Quakes to trade for a right back from a struggling team and save the DP and salary spots for the winter window.
The situation with the Quakes has stabilized and things are looking better, but there are still areas that the team could improve in. Fans should hope that the team continues to figure things out in the next month and then use the summer window to work on the margins of the squad.
Covelo has had a positive impact on a Quakes’ side that was seemingly dead in the water before his appointment. In his short time at the helm, he has seen his Quakes advance past the Sounders in the Open Cup and inch closer to the playoff line. Hope has been a cruel joke amongst Quakes’ fans, but it does feel like the front office has finally put a plan in place that should give fans hope.
Featured image: San Jose Earthquakes