In a season that has seemed over since the disastrous start under Almeyda, there have been a few bright spots for fans. With another terrible result over the weekend, it’s clear that a change is needed to get more from this failure of a season. Clearly there is nothing left to play for, so why not give the youngsters a chance to develop?
Quakes fans were in for another rough season from the opening whistle of the 2022 season, so fans have understandably been trying to find reasons to tune into games. With playoffs well and truly out of reach, it’s time to give fans a glimpse of the future.
At last week’s MLS All Star Week, the Quakes were well represented, but not at the game itself. One of the new events of the week was the MLS NEXT All-Star game where some of the best prospects in MLS pipelines got a chance to show their potential. From Cruz Medina to Emi Ochoa, some of the Quakes’ best academy products ended up as some of the event’s best performers.
One of the only well managed parts of the Quakes’ organization has been the academy, as it has constantly been a pipeline for both the first team and youth national teams. Luckily for the team, there are plenty of exciting prospects waiting in the wings hoping for a chance in the MLS. With no clear plans for next season, it’s time to allow these youngsters to showcase their development in the major league.
If the team wants to take anything positive from this season, outside of Ebobisse, then it’s time for the young players to get their chance. With less than two months until the end of the regular season, now is the time to give prospects opportunities to contend for a spot in next year’s team.
The Quakes are in need of a complete overhaul from the squad itself to the philosophy guiding every transfer or player development program. Meaning there is an opportunity to give young players a chance, not only to help guide player transfers but to test their developmental programs.
A handful of youngsters have gotten a chance to play this season, with Ousseni Bouda and Niko Tsakiris being the two who have played the most. However, they have yet to be given any semblance of a consistent role. Fortunately for all these prospects, they have been able to continue to develop with MLS Next Pro where they can play against decent opponents in a developmental league.
With the season practically over for the Quakes, as the postseason is not a reality, chances for these players should open up. It’s unclear when the new additions will join up with the team, meaning that the team will have to make do with their current roster. If youngsters are given a chance, they can make decisions on whether they need an upgrade at a position or if the young players are good enough to play a larger role in the following season.
Not only is this a good way to see what the Quakes will need in the winter transfer window, but it is also a good way to gauge how successful the player development program is. It’s true that the Quakes have a successful academy and have drafted well, but they have yet to have a true game changing product. There are plenty of success stories from Jackson Yueill to Tommy Thompson, but they have yet to have a player move from MLS to a bigger league like Philadelphia Union or FC Dallas.
Cade Cowell has been the club’s greatest academy product, in terms of MLS output, but he has regressed from being linked to clubs in Europe to an afterthought for both Almeyda and Covelo. At the same time, Tsakiris is getting chances with the youth USMNT and is highly rated. Giving these players, and others like Cruz Medina, is the only way to judge how good the academy is at producing MLS talents.
From the moment that the season unraveled in the spring, the club failed to come up with a plan for the future. However, given how ownership operates and the landscape of MLS, it’s clear that academy and other prospects will play a massive role in any future success for the Quakes.
Fortunately for the Quakes, there are plenty of exciting young players who could contribute both in the short and long term. From Bouda to Ochoa, the Quakes have done well to build up a young core that could help play an important role for the club in its next era.
With the 8th pick in the 2022 MLS SuperDraft, the Quakes selected Ousseni Bouda, a talented winger from Stanford to be the team’s creative force of the future. Bouda has received the most chances of any prospect and he has flashed his potential of being Espinoza’s long term replacement. However, Bouda clearly needs more chances and would benefit from being Espinoza’s backup to learn from him.
When Niko Tsakiris signed his first contract this past offseason, it was clear that the front office saw immense potential in the young midfielder and so has the USMNT setup. While he has yet to get the chances of Bouda, he was an integral part of the U-20 USMNT team that won the CONCACAF championship this year. Tsakiris deserves to have more chances in the midfield given the lack of creativity in the midfield, outside of Monteiro, and could prove to be the team’s long term solution there.
Oskar Ågren may be the player whose future is up in the air the most given his lack of play time and the transfers that the Quakes have made. Despite an awful defense this year, Ågren has received the bare minimum of playing time despite the amount that they spent to draft him. What complicates his future are the transfers that the side has made, as they have all been defensive reinforcements so far, shrinking his chances at game time even more.
Cruz Medina and Emi Ochoa are more long term projects that may not see the first team for a few seasons. Medina, who has already gone on trial for clubs in Europe, is an exciting attacking prospect that is at home anywhere on the forward line and may need one more season with the Next team. Ochoa is stuck behind Marcinkowski, who has been excellent this year, so he may have to wait until JT leaves the Quakes.
Cade Cowell may not really be a young unknown player anymore, but his future is also up in the air after his incredible start to life in MLS. Quakes fans will remember that 2020 season where Cade broke out but since then, he has regressed and both Almeyda and Covelo have failed to find use for him. In these last few months, he desperately needs to find some sort of role if he ever hopes of fulfilling that sky high potential that he flashed in his debut against the Galaxy in 2020.
Unlike other struggling franchises, the Quakes have a young core that have flashed potential of being cornerstones to a great team. However, to fully understand the potential of these players, they need playing time this season to understand their roles in the upcoming season.
Almost since the first whistle of the season, there has been disappointment amongst Quakes fans given that the side will miss the playoffs for yet another season. One of the only bright spots for the team has been the output of exciting prospects that could soon take over the team. Unfortunately for Quakes fans, the future may be the only hope that they have and these players will define that future.
Featured image: San Jose Earthquakes