For 80 minutes, the Quakes looked to be entering a new era. Fast paced attacking soccer with a solid backline to cover them enthralled fans. Then, a ghost from years past appeared.
Opening up the new season against Atlanta United, the Quakes had a chance to show off Luchi’s new system. The team, for most of the game, performed extremely well and there are so many positives to take.
Any discussion has to start with Espinoza and Ebobisse, as their fluid movement tore apart the Atlanta backline. Gruezo’s presence gave Monteiro and Yueill freedom to move ahead and be involved in the attack. Mensah’s addition to the squad paid off, as he and Rodrigues complemented each other extremely well.
There has to be some with the ways the two fullbacks struggled against the United offense. Akapo looked better when he came in, but Marie really faltered. With most of the offense playing well, it was a shame to see how poor Cade performed.
Yes this is a heartbreaking loss, but this can still be a platform by which the Quakes launch off. The way this team played was impressive and if they can continue to play like this, hope can come back.
When the game kicked off, it was clear that this is a new Quakes team whose play is built on positive soccer. Luchi’s impact is clear and, unlike Almeyda, his system seems tailor made for the MLS.
Excluding the game where he scored a hattrick, this was the best game Espinoza ever played for San Jose. He was all over the field, contributing to every aspect of play and torturing Gutman. Ebobisse was the clear benefactor of this play and was able to finish off a great pass from the Argentine.
The interplay between those two and the midfield was breathtaking to watch. Rather than sit back and hit on the counter, play was developed by this partnership and spread United apart.
Gruezo’s transfer may go down as one of the best moves in MLS this window, as he is the defensive midfielder the team has desperately needed. Whenever United would break, Gruezo would be there to intercept without fouling.
The presence of a player whose main role would be just to clean things up greatly freed Monteiro and Yueill. Monteiro looked fantastic, being the perfect ball carrier and transitioning from defense to offense. After struggling under Almeyda, Yueill was able to roam all over the pitch and filled in the gaps left by the wingers.
Leitch’s window was capped off by Mensah’s addition after Nathan’s injury. This is yet another masterclass, as he gave the side that much needed experience and leadership in the back. Rodrigues looked lost last year, but was excellent against United and played out the back well.
There has been a clear shift in playstyle and philosophy under Luchi. This shift has made the team much more fun to watch and gives them a shot against any team.
With all those positives, there were some nagging issues with the team. None of these issues are too fatal, but should be something to keep your eyes on over the next few weeks.
The fullback position has been torturing the team for years now, with no real long term plan in sight. Akapo and Trauco were brought in last year to reinforce the backline and give the side two experienced fullbacks. Trauco looked fine in his appearances last year while Akapo was the natural replacement for Marie.
Marie has been an excellent role player for the Quakes since he was drafted. However, he’s not a good enough defender to be a starter and Atlanta exploited that until Akapo came in for him. Trauco was fine when the game started, but struggled to cope with United’s attack as the game drew on.
This is supposed to be Cade’s season where the mercurial talent finally makes his big move. Unfortunately, he reversed back to his old ways and struggled to make correct plays. Too often Cade would just put his head down and try to beat his man physically, missing open teammates.
It’s strange to say this, but the team played much better when the ball was flowing away from Cade. When he got the ball, he would dribble into trouble or miss passes. There’s no other way to say this, but he has been stuck in the same developmental stage since his debut which hinders the possibility of his move to Europe.
Fortunately for Quakes fans, these issues can be solved this early in the season. A potential change in starting lineup or subtle tactical shift can ease fans’ concerns.
Despite the loss, this is the best the Quakes have played in years. Luchi’s men dominated the Georgians, but failed to see off the game. For the first time in a while, there is hope for the Quakes and this new project.
Player and Manager Ratings:
GK- Daniel- 5
DF- Marie- 3
DF- Mensah- 7
DF- Rodrigues- 8
MD- Gruezo- 7
MD- Yueill- 7
MD- Monteiro- 8
FW- Cowell- 4
FW- Ebobisse- 8
Featured image: San Jose Earthquakes