After a great start to life this season, the Quakes have hit their first rough patch of the season. A few bad losses coupled with important absences have surely tested Luchi. There’s still plenty of time for the team to bounce back, but the work has to start now.
For much of the early days of this MLS season, the Quakes were among the darlings. Luchi had implemented an exciting new system that was winning.
Despite some fanatic additions, the strength of the roster has been tested as of late. While the starting lineup is still solid, the options off the bench have been disappointing. Luchi’s sub-patterns have also hindered the development of certain bench players.
The slide in form can really be seen as starting with the injury to Akapo and Cade leaving for the U20 World Cup. Akapo has proven to be a key piece of this Quakes side and his absence has hurt the team in so many ways. Cade hasn’t had the best season, but his presence still forces teams to gameplan around him and relieve pressure off Ebobisse and Espinoza.
Most teams will hit rough patches like this one, it’s the nature of a season. Now, Luchi and the front office must make sure that this slide doesn’t derail the season.
If one were to compare the production the team has gotten out of their starters to the rest of the league, the Quakes would be among the most impressive. However, the lack of real options off the bench has played a role in the failures of late.
Going into the offseason, fans had plenty of concerns with the transfer plans of the team, but the front office pulled off some great deals. For the most part, those additions have played well and been valuable starters.
Again, the additions to the starting lineup have been great, but the bench has really lacked quality. Judson is a fine player to have come off the bench to see off a game, but the addition of Baldisimo has made certain that one of those two players will not see game time. Outside of Baldisimo, none of the other additions have been bench options given how well they’ve played.
When everyone is available, Luchi’s subs are too predictable with Kikanović usually being the first sub and one of Judson or Thompson coming in to provide some help defensively. This is both a result of a lack of options and variety in Luchi’s decisions. There isn’t a clear difference maker on the bench, so it allows Luchi to be comfortable with his patterns.
Luchi was seen as a manager who could truly develop players rather than building a competitive unit right away. The start to the season has seen this image flip completely. He has proven himself to be excellent at identifying a style he wants to play and plugging in the correct players.
The only real disappointment has been in the lack of development from some of the younger players, especially with the lack of opportunities for Bouda. This was supposed to be a season where the youngster could develop and see plenty of time. Instead, Luchi has just chosen to go with the reliable Kikanović which has seen Bouda just be a late sub.
Due to some bad luck, the Quakes have seen a positive start slow down. There are some steps they may take, but it’ll come down to how flexible they can be.
Absences have played a large role in why the Quakes have begun to tumble. For the most part, these absences are completely out of the team’s hands.
In less than 10 games, Akapo has made himself indispensable to the Quakes. The right back is so integral to both the defense and attack. No other player on this roster is as much of a difference maker on both sides as Akapo.
With Akapo injured, both Marie and Trauco needed to step up and it’s been a mixed bag. Marie had his best game of the season against LAFC at Levi’s, but continues to struggle with his responsibilities. Trauco has been solid with his best game being over the weekend, but neither has the same impact.
Cowell’s absence is more positive than Akapo’s, as the youngster is representing the US at the U20 World Cup. This is a great opportunity for Cade to show why he is such a vaunted prospect and deliver a trophy for his country. While him not being with the team hurts, this is crucial to his development.
Luchi’s usage of Cade is interesting and hard to replicate with any other player, as he uses the pace of Cade to stretch out opponents. Kikanović isn’t that same player, as he is more methodical and better suited to play up top. The only player who could play that role is Bouda, but he hasn’t been given extended time.
As the length of the absences continue to draw on, the team must find ways to deal with them. Be it with some personnel changes or some tweaks to Luchi’s tactics, there needs to be some change.
Fans were treated to an excellent start to the season, but are now seeing their team hit a rough patch. Due to a mixture of things, Luchi’s men are now in a rut that they will be desperate to break out of. Dallas will give the Quakes a chance to bounce back, but this rough spell has to give the team a chance to reconsider some issues.
Featured image: San Jose Earthquakes