It was supposed to be another game where the Quakes continued to show how much they’ve improved. Instead it was marred by a terrible incident that demands attention from the league. Even though the game continued, it’s hard to describe just how much this incident weighed on everyone.
After a great homestand, the Quakes traveled to New York to face off against the struggling Red Bulls. While the Quakes were the better side, the game was tight and it could have produced a highly entertaining game.
Espinoza continued to show off why he should be the league MVP. The right side of the team is where all the danger comes from and the link up play between Espinoza and Akapo is beautiful. With Judson returning to the midfield, there was much more balance to the side.
For 21 minutes, the game stopped with little acknowledgement as to what had occurred on the pitch. As the minutes drew on, there was more and more confirmation that a slur was used. While the game eventually restarted, the post-match reactions showed just how much this incident weighed on the team.
This draw will always be remembered for one horrible moment and the resiliency shown by a united team. Now all eyes will be on the MLS front office to correctly deal with this incident and show that there is no room for this anywhere.
On the more positive side, the Quakes continued their good run of form. The attack hummed and the midfield was incredible in their control of the game.
If the league MVP was handed out today, it’d be hard not to give it out to Espinoza. Now on four goals, this is clearly the Argentine’s team and Luchi is maximizing his output. Every time that he has the ball at his feet, you can see just how dangerous he is and so do opposing defenders.
Akapo has been all what was promised with his signing and more. A sturdy defender who can put in some deadly crosses is something that the Quakes have lacked from the right back position for years. The interplay between him and Espinoza makes the Quakes’ right side the creative hub of the team, especially when Monteiro or Yueill drift over to open up another channel.
Yueill’s transformation this season has been incredible to see and this is due to him being freed of a lot of responsibilities. Monteiro has helped, as he can connect further up the field and let Yueill playmake from deeper. Either Gruezo, who had a beautiful assist for Espinoza, or Judson gives the team that defensive anchor that pivots the team between both sides of the ball.
Of course, there were some negatives that mostly deal with the weaker left side. Trauco can’t come back soon enough, as Marie continues to be exposed at left back. In addition, Cade continues to struggle with his decision making with his poor shot selection really hurting the offense.
Like so many of the other games this season, there were plenty of positives for the Californian side. Again, Luchi’s changes have made this team so much more fun to watch and competitive in MLS.
After scoring his belter, Espinoza went over and celebrated with his teammates in the same way Romelu Lukaku celebrated following racist chants by Juventus fans. It was a sign of unity in the face of a disgusting issue.
When Judson got fouled around the 56th minute mark, both teams went around the Brazilian. As the sides began to clash, the Quakes took exception to something that was allegedly said by Dante Vanzeir. Noticing what was happening, the ref made the decision to postpone the game until things had settled down.
21 minutes later, things would restart but with Vanzeir still on the field and unpunished. Even if the ref didn’t hear what was said, the Red Bulls manager needed to take out Vanzeir. It was inexcusable to keep him on, especially with how Wayne Rooney dealt with a similar situation.
Nothing else would really happen throughout the rest of the game, but there was plenty to be said post-match. Ebobisse and Luchi would both step up and take the podium to discuss what had occurred.
Ebobisse’s reaction needs to be watched, as the striker described what had happened and why he couldn’t react the way he wanted. In a few minutes, he explained the dilemma for black players where they are not allowed to truly react to hate speech. Given how Vanzeir was not punished, it’s entirely possible that had Ebobisse or any other black player reacted they would have been punished.
Talking with the media, Luchi made an interesting remark that has long been part of the debate on how to react to racism in soccer. He told media members that he told his team that if they wanted, they could walk off and not restart play with the backing of the coaching staff. It’s an entirely correct reaction in a sport that has done rather little in combating racism.
It was impressive to see the team unite behind their own teammates. The players did their part, but now the league must step in and make things right.
This game will forever have this disturbing cloud hanging over it, with the league needing to respond. In moments like these, the sporting events on the field don’t matter, it’s imperative that fans show solidarity and support for the players affected. Until issues like these are stamped out of our lives, then there can be no real change.
Featured image: MLS