After months of searching, the Quakes have finally found their coach of the future, USMNT assistant coach Luchi Gonzalez. While he won’t be joining the team right away, as he will be going to the World Cup, it’s still a welcome sign for fans begging for change. It’s hard to really highlight just how difficult Luchi’s task to turn around the Quakes will be, but will he be up for it?
From the start of the front office’s search for a new manager, two specific characteristics were desired, MLS experience and a philosophy that matches the Quakes. Luchi Gonzalez fits both factors to a t with the USMNT assessment coach having some success with FC Dallas due to his philosophy.
Over the past few seasons, the Quakes have embraced a youth movement with emphasis placed on the development of academy and draft players. Luchi developed a reputation of giving academy players a chance and helping them develop into players who can move to Europe. While he struggled to find consistent success in the league, his ability to work with young players can’t be dismissed.
It’s also interesting to take a look at how Luchi sets up his sides to give fans an idea about how the team will look next season. In a way, the formation that Covelo has been using recently is similar to the way Luchi has set his team up, giving players some familiarity with the system. This should also help fans understand where a new transfer will be desperately needed.
The Quakes enter yet another new era with a new coach, as Luchi time will begin in 2023, giving fans time to wonder about the future. However, for both fans of the club and MLS, this appointment better works and finally brings some stability back to Bay Area soccer.
Jesús Ferreira, Reggie Cannon, Ricardo Pepi and Weston McKennie are some of the flashiest names that Luchi has helped develop both as coach of FC Dallas’ academy and first team. Those names underscore how crucial the youth movement is to Luchi’s philosophy.
While FC Dallas does have a higher payroll than a decent amount of MLS sides, Dallas has made it their priority to give their academy prospects chances at first team soccer. This has made them one of the top destinations for European sides looking to secure talents in the US. Luchi, moving his way from the academy to the first team, was able to play a large role in their developments into desired prospects.
Many around the league felt that FC Dallas’ rise to one of MLS’ top factories of youth players was in part due to Luchi’s work at the academy level. Developing a love of working with youngsters during his playing days, he quickly worked through FC Dallas’ academy setup, creating a good culture. It was this culture that allowed players like Pepi and Cannon to become first team options.
With the Quakes unable, or unwilling, to compete financially with the league’s elite, shifting focus towards developing players is the correct move. This is a large reason why Luchi was selected over other candidates like Ian Russell or Landon Donovan.
This season marked the club’s full dive into the youth movement with a few very promising academy players receiving contracts and/or playing time in both league and cup play. Niko Tsakiris remains the club’s best prospect, but has yet to receive constant opportunities with the first team. It’s clearer that the front office sees big things for Tsakiris and his fellow academy graduates.
However, despite the Quakes’ impressive academy, it doesn’t mean that it will be as easy as giving all youngsters starting roles. Cade, for example, was given way too much pressure early on and has now stagnated. The hope with Luchi is that he will be able to help prepare them for larger roles while also helping players like Cade continue to grow.
Luchi’s reputation as a great developer of younger players was clearly one of his biggest selling points to a team in dire need of organizational change. By following the model set by clubs like Philadelphia Union, the Quakes may have a chance back towards playoff contention.
Since taking over from Almeyda earlier this year, Covelo has employed various formations to get something from a season that was lost so early on. These past few weeks though, he has begun to use a formation preferred by Luchi to some very limited success.
Luchi’s preferred formation is a 4-3-3 with a defensive midfielder rather than an attacking mid further up the pitch. Tactically, the focus is on the wingers and outside backs to create space and stretch the field to create space for the lone striker. The choice of a defensive midfielder aims to help the defense and this is seen in his first two seasons in MLS, where FC Dallas had one of the best defensive records in the west.
The Quakes have needed defensive reinforcements for a while now and their two new signings will help fulfill Luchi’s vision. Carlos Akapo will likely start at right back with Rodrigues as the right sided center back. Leaving Nathan or Beason as the other center back, Marie will keep his spot at left back unless a necessary transfer is made.
Perhaps, the most interesting decisions the club will have to make will be in the midfield, where both Monteiro and Yueill will need a third option. Both Judson and Remedi are fine defensive midfielders, but it may be in the club’s best interest to bring in a DP caliber midfielder to aid Luchi. Getting that midfielder that will free Monteiro and Yueill from certain defensive responsibilities, allowing them to be involved in creating chances for Ebobisse and the wingers.
Offensively, not too much will change as both Ebobisse and Espinoza will likely be penciled in as starters. Fans should be excited to see Ebobisse develop under Luchi, as the manager’s system will help give him the space needed to become a 20+ goals a season striker. On the left wing, Benji and Cade will fight for the starting spot with each bringing their own unique skill set.
Almeyda and Luchi are two completely different managers with different tactical philosophies, so Quakes fans should expect a totally different side next season. A new manager is always an exciting experience and Luchi’s appointment will bring certain expectations from fans.
Quakes fans have had to suffer through so much disappointment in the past few seasons, from the failure of the Almeyda era to the regression of certain players, so this new appointment has to work. Luchi possesses two of the most desirable characteristics to the team’s front office, as his player development resume is striking and he did have a brief spell as head coach of FC Dallas. For a club that is in desperate need of change, Luchi will have the toughest job in all of MLS.
Featured image: MLS