Outside a few homegrown signings, the Quakes have had a relatively quiet offseason. The club was always going to use this offseason to retool after the disappointing Almeyda era. However, there are a few stories that fans should keep their eyes on.
This offseason was meant to allow Luchi to get familiar with his team. In terms of transfers, it was more about marginal moves rather than gamechangers.
With the Coachella preseason camp getting closer, fans should keep their eyes on a few seemingly small stories. None of these may be truly tectonic, but may give an insight on what Luchi thinks of his current squad. They will also more than likely be a continuation of the front office’s long term plans.
The Luchi era is now upon the club and, unlike the Almeyda era, it will start with a whimper. No big additions or subtractions, just more of the same. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, but the club has to trust Luchi to be their future.
As the wait for a new season reaches its zenith, the Quakes seem to have their plans for next season done. Of course things may change by the summer window, but these narratives will likely be all for this window.
As more and more reports begin to confirm Michael Baldisimo’s move to San Jose, this will likely be the “marquee” window signing. The Vancouver Whitecap product has an interesting profile but has yet to put it together at the MLS level.
Selected in the MLS Re-Entry Draft by the Quakes, Baldisimo has yet to sign a contract with the Quakes. The midfielder was able to be selected after the Whitecaps chose to let his contract expire. With a little less than 50 MLS appearances, he still has room to grow.
Still only 22, Baldisimo will likely be a reclamation project where the club will hope to get the most out of the Philippine international. Similar to Cade, he made his debut during the 2020 season, scoring his only MLS goal against Toronto. However, after a breakout 2021, he fell out of favor and struggled to find consistency in 2022.
A more defensive minded, Baldisimo could serve as Remedi’s replacement. He is a better passer than Remedi and Judson, so he could be an outlet in that CDM role. Given the current balance of the midfield, he has a spot and could relieve pressure from Yueill.
Baldisimo is not the signing most fans were expecting, but he is a great low risk move that could help balance the midfield. With him being young and having MLS experience, this is yet another move that shows Leitch’s plans.
Benji has been one of the better stories to emerge from San Jose during the Almeyda era. The talented forward had gone from USL talent to MLS starter.
Now, it seems as if his time in MLS is over. Rumors have persisted that AEK Athens is interested in bringing Benji to Greece. This would also allow Benji to reunite with Almeyda, who gave him his first chance in MLS.
If the fee is fair, it’s a no brainer for the Quakes to accept it. Not only would the team get a cash infusion, it would give them more prestige. It would validate their scouting and development programs, as they were able to find and develop Benji.
While the Quakes would likely receive a nice fee, it would leave them incredibly thin at the forward position. Perhaps they would use any potential fee on a replacement, but it’s more likely that the replacement comes from in house. Bouda has got to be his replacement, as he would bring a different playstyle but perhaps a higher ceiling.
A move like this would be not only big for the club, but would allow Benji a chance to play in Europe. Giving a platform for a player to achieve this dream can only help the club be more attractive to potential targets.
One of the biggest concerns for the Quakes over the past few years has been their lack of depth. So far given their current moves, it’s likely going to continue to be a concern.
With Baldisimo and a few homegrown players likely to be the only moves, it leaves the club with depth issues everywhere but goalkeeper and center back. There is no backup for Ebobisse, which means the club has to bank on him staying healthy. On the wings, there is little help and even less if Benji leaves.
The club’s decision to fully buy into the youth movement is the correct one, but building a bench without any MLS veterans is risky. Being able to bring off the bench someone who has that experience can serve as an example. In addition, veterans on the bench can give youngsters invaluable insight similar to Andre Iguadola’s role.
There are a few marginal moves that the club could make to help add veteran depth. Bringing back Tommy Thompson would be excellent and gives the Quakes a perfect super sub. Further exploring the free agent market may help as well, but the best options are dwindling.
With the start of the Luchi era edging closer and closer, it’s a safe bet to assume that the club’s moves are over. There are, clearly, some narratives that have to be dealt with, as well as questions to be answered. For a fanbase that has been dying for a successful team, the front office has to get those moves right or accept the club’s dwindling popularity.
Featured image: San Jose Earthquakes