Austin FC are quickly becoming one of the best matchups for the Quakes. In an intense atmosphere, this game has produced world-class moments for both teams.
Saturday’s game was no different, giving fans one of the best matches of this MLS season.
Going into Austin is tough for any team, no matter their form this season. Quakes came in off a bad loss, so they were eyeing this match as a bounce-back opportunity.
Again, the offense looked great, with the combination of Ebobisse and Espinoza being elite. For the most part, the midfield was solid, and Yueill had his best performance this season and contributed a lot on both sides.
With how great the defense has been this season, it’s a shame that they have had back-to-back defensive collapses. Part of it stems from teams hitting on the counter, but it’s becoming a little concerning. However, Akapo’s injury has to be the most worrying result of this match.
A draw was the correct result for both teams, as they both looked to be real playoff sides. Quakes will surely be the happier of the two, given that they were away.
Perhaps the best change made by Luchi has been the team’s freedom in the middle and up top, and it has resulted in maybe the best creative side in MLS.
Ebobisse’s goal is the perfect encapsulation of the new Quakes’ offense. Espinoza drove down the line and picked out a leaping Ebobisse. The mercurial striker was then able to guide the ball into the net.
At that moment, Luchi’s system showed itself to the world. The offense is based on using the width of the pitch to create space for crashing midfielders and Ebobisse. Almeyda’s setup relied more on individual brilliance rather than creating for one another.
This new-look midfield dominated the game for the most part and was capped off with a Yueill banger. Throughout the game, Yueill showed that he was the team’s leader with tough tackles and important passes after another. If he is able to develop into this leader more consistently, then the Quakes may have found the replacement for Wondo.
Monteiro and Gruezo were decent but not great. Monteiro is a little loose on the defensive side but is so important in the buildup. Gruezo is a little invisible for a reason; he is the clean-up man and is focused on getting the ball back and to other players.
Quick shout out to Austin for the amazing atmosphere, as it has become a stage for one of the budding rivalries in MLS. Neutral as well as both sets of teams, fans will surely be dreaming of this matchup in the playoffs.
Luchi has reworked this team into a modern MLS side that is willing to take teams on. And it has proven to be just what they needed.
Last week’s game was disappointing for the total defensive collapse, and there were shades of that tonight. Akapo’s injury will be the most devastating moment of the season so far.
The Quakes’ defense got torn apart on the counter for another week in a row. Both Mensah and Rodrigues got pulled too far apart with no help. This just allows the opponents to fill the lanes and get into position behind the center backs.
When they get pulled apart, the fullbacks are good enough defenders to make up for them. Akapo can often do a fine job, but he’s too integral to the team offensively. Marie is just not a good enough defender and is often drifting across the pitch rather than filling his lane.
These are moments where Gruezo has to be the first midfielder to track back and fill in as a third central defender. In general, the midfield must do better at transitioning when they lose the ball. Far too often, they are caught ball-watching as their opponents blaze past them.
Akapo has been one of the team’s best players since his debut this season. If his injury is significant, it robs the team of a vital player on both sides of the ball. Marie would likely fill in for him with Trauco at left-back, but it hurts the team offensively.
Fans should keep their eyes on some of the defensive issues that the Quakes have had, but these should hopefully be dealt with. Far graver for the team is the health of Akapo, and it might be too much for the Quakes to overcome.
Austin matched up incredibly well with the Quakes, with both sides possessing elite attacks. Quakes continue to show improvements, but there must be more focus on the defense. With the atmosphere at both stadiums being great, this is surely a dream playoff series.
Player and Manager Ratings:
GK– Marcinkowski- 6
DF– Akapo- 7
DF– Mensah- 5
DF– Rodrigues- 5
MD– Gruezo- 5
MD– Yueill- 8
MD– Monteiro- 6
FW– Cowell- 5
FW– Ebobisse- 7
FW– Espinoza- 8
Featured Image: AP Photo