Finally, the MLS season is back. After a World Cup and, somewhat, shortened preseason, it’s time for the Quakes to take the field. Facing Atlanta United, Luchi’s side has a chance to showcase the bright future in San Jose.
After a fantastic finish to the transfer market, there is real optimism surrounding the Quakes. Atlanta will be a tough side, but should be a different test than the Red Bulls were last season.
This Atlanta United side is not the same one that ruled MLS for seasons, it’s a side in transition. There are similarities to the Quakes, as both sides are aiming to usher in a new era of success. However, that’s probably where the similarities end, given the different philosophies at the core of each side.
Fans are going to be interested in how this new look Quakes side will look like and play like. Luchi’s starting eleven will fit the mold that he’s used across his career with a mixture of new and old players. There will be plenty of things for fans to keep their eyes on, from the new look midfield to the development of Cade Cowell.
A new season is a time of renewal. For the Quakes, this season has to be one of positive change as they aim for the playoffs.
Atlanta and San Jose should be one of the best matchups of MLS’ opening weekend. It will be a test of opposing philosophies and new eras.
In the short history of MLS, there have been few teams that skyrocketed to instant success like Atlanta. Fueled by smart transfers and an excellent soccer culture, United was able to dominate MLS. After MLS Cup and US Open Cup wins, Arthur Blank’s organization was the epitome of success in MLS.
Once Miguel Almirón was sold to Newcastle and Josef Martínez struggled with injuries, things unraveled for the Georgian club. The club’s moves have largely been failures, but Blank has yet to show any signs of slowing down his spending. At the same time, the club’s academy and SuperDraft products haven’t matched the success their predecessors had in the early seasons of Atlanta’s existence.
The Quakes’ struggles have been widely documented here and elsewhere, but there have been positives signs as of late. Leitch’s appointment as general manager has been a godsend with the former Quakes player finding ways to succeed in MLS. With a new philosophy, Leitch has rebuilt the Quakes and given fans long lost hope.
At one point in time, Atlanta was the club that every team wanted to be while San Jose were the laughingstocks. While San Jose pivoted to find a new model to build a squad, Atlanta doubled down on an outdated philosophy.
While neither side is a favorite for the MLS Cup, this is one matchup MLS fans should have circled. It will be a battle of different philosophies and for control of each club’s new era.
The start of any new season brings excitement that every fan loves. For a single matchday, all the pessimism is gone and fans can dream.
Luchi has traditionally used aa 4-3-3 and it’s what he has used across the preseason. With Nathan’s backline, the centerback pairing will be Mensah and Rodrigues. This is the most balanced pairing the Quakes have with Mensah being steady on the ball and Rodrigues an excellent tackler.
The fullbacks will be Akapo and Trauco, fans will finally get to see what Akapo brings to the team after his summer transfer. Cade, Ebobisse and Espinoza will likely be the front three, but don’t be surprised if Kikanović gets the start over Cade.
However, the midfield should be the most exciting part of this team. Yuiell will play the eight position and bring the ball up while Monteiro will get to dictate play further up. New addition Carlos Gruezon will patrol and clean up any mistakes made by the other midfielders.
Cade will be the team’s focal point offensively, as he begins to want a move to Europe. There is no doubts over his physical gifts, it’s more the technical aspects of his game. If he is able to show that his playmaking and decision making have developed then he may be able to make his dream move.
Ebobisse and Espinoza are such great pros that it’s almost a given that they will have great seasons. In his first full season in San Jose, Rodrigues is going to have to step up and prove to the front office that he deserves to be here long term. Marcinkowski’s standing as the starting keeper will be safe to start the season, but there are some great keepers on the roster that will be there to step in if he should fail.
This season is the opening chapter of the Luchi era. So much is riding on this season, as the franchise can’t suffer any more setbacks after the failures of the Almeyda era.
Saturday will be the official start of the Luchi and Leitch era. The club’s reimagination into a modern MLS side has been a welcome sight for fans. For fans who have been waiting for success, this iteration has to win.
Featured image: San Jose Earthquakes